Friday, November 17, 2017

Alabama Senate

Roy Moore is going to win. In the privacy of the booth Alabama Republicans willing to take a chance on a Moore expulsion and a chance at a do-over. But if not, Moore is better than letting a Democrat have a seat from Alabama (!) for 4 years. There's no way in hell  they're gonna let Doug Jones win this. If they can't force Moore off the ballot, which it looks like they can't, they'll vote for him and they'll seat him.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Big Move Into Open Seat!

Now that Mitch Gross has opted out, I'm announcing that I'm planning to move into Senate District 37- an open district where Bob Dvorsky is retiring. Anyone got stickers that say "Senate"?

Watch for a big announcement in early December...

Friday, November 10, 2017

City Election Post-Mortem, Part 1

I'm not ready yet to write about Iowa City's District B race. That may be a while yet.

But after three days I have a few thoughts on other races.

I had a smooth Election Day at work and the only real surprise professionally was a failed stealth write-in effort in Solon.

Mazahir Salih's win is a big, big deal. It's a big deal on the national or even world scale as she becomes, more than likely, the first Sudanese-American woman to win an election in the United States.

It's a big deal locally. Her win doesn't flip the council like the Core Four 2015 sweep did. It solidifies the previous 5-2 progressive council majority into a 6 to 1 majority. And going from Terry Dickens to Mazahir Salih is the biggest single seat shift maybe ever or at least since since Amy Correia replaced Ernie Lehman in 2005. That's how we used to measure progressive wins in Iowa City, one notch or even a half a notch at a time.

We replaced a guy who literally ran for the council because he wanted to stop the homeless from begging in front of his jewelry store to a community organizer who works with Iowa City's most challenged and needy residents.

I don't want to seem less excited than I should be. I was excited - several weeks ago. This race was over a long time ago, and the thrill's immediacy has worn off for me. Salih was a strong enough candidate that she essentially cleared the field.

The old guard Chamber of Commerce faction made the weirdest move possible in quietly recruiting Angela Winnike and then letting her run of the strangest non-campaigns ever. Had they simply let the at large race go entirely, Salih and Kingsley Botchway could have coasted, but with token opposition they worked hard and potentially helped District B candidate Ryan Hall.

And again, I am REALLY really not ready to write about that yet.

In landslides this big it's hard to read anything into result patterns. Winnike's distant last everywhere numbers vary so little by precinct from her 19% overall total that it's hard to ID any "hot spot." Salih finished just 64 votes behind Kingsley Botchway for first place, with rarely more than a handful of votes separating them in each precinct. Both got about 5600 votes, and based on precinct totals it appears that only 300 or so people voted for one but not the other.



The Coralville result is actually more interesting. Even though the self-labeled "progressive" candidates lost, the new council is much more liberal than the old, in a way that most Iowa City people don't get.

Prior to the election the center of gravity on the Coralville council was Tom Gill and Laurie Goodrich, moderates both just re-elected Tuesday, and the retiring Bill Hoeft. It was and always had been kind of a businessy body.

Now, the newly elected Meghann Foster makes up a council majority with the two holdover members, Mitch Gross and Jill Dodds, and this new majority is a mainstream Democrat kind of majority that's far less tone-deaf on, say, affordable housing than Gill and Goodrich. This is the most progressive the Coralville council has ever been and is a big leap forward. It's also, as Foster pointed out to me, the first ever female majority Coralville council (Iowa City had a female majority in 2006-07).

Foster finished in a solid first place with 74%, drawing support from both the business side and the liberal side. Cindy Riley in fourth place in the top-three-win election was trying for a similar appeal but got lost in the shuffle.


The "progressives," Elizabeth Dinschel and Miriam Timmer-Hackert, were in fifth and sixth place with 25% of the vote and nearly identical totals, just three votes apart.

A loss that big can't be chalked up to "lack of support from key Democrats" or questionable yard sign placement by their opponents, both charges that flew on social media in the final days.  Much was made of Goodrich's GOP affiliation (Gill is a DINO) but in the context of the 2013 "Koch Brothers" Coralville election in which she won her first term, she was the moderate choice against a radical conservative slate.

A 25% total indicates that either the message didn't get through or that it was heard and rejected, and reflects a fundamental mis-read of the Coralville city election voters. Timmer-Hackert and Dinschel challenged things and made some good points - that fell on deaf ears. Hey, I like the idea of walkable communities, too, but car culture is deeply, deeply embedded in Coralville, and people who care about walkable communities around here deal with that by... not living in Coralville and thus not voting in Coralville.

Imad Youssif was, well, on the ballot, and based on my work interactions with him I have a feeling he's going to become a perennial Some Dude candidate for stuff for a while.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Iowa Flipped In 2010

Iowa actually flipped in 2010. We only stayed purple through 2016 due to incredible organizing skill and a few lucky breaks. In retrospect, the beginning of the end was Tom Harkin's retirement announcement in January 2013.

The key architects of Iowa staying purple till 2016 were President Obama, ex-Iowa Democrats chaor Sue Dvorsky, and especially former Senate leader Mike Gronstal.

Mike Gronstal is a hero for holding that IA Senate majority six years longer than we should have. The man deserves a medal.

All the nasty crap that happened last legislative session would have happened years sooner if the Democrats hadn't held on to the Iowa Senate by one vote. 

Six more years of labor rights. Six more years of voting rights. Kept the marriage amendments off the floor till after the Supreme Court ruling. Six more years of reproductive rights. Those things and many more are thanks to Mike Gronstal's skill and courage. He  personally held back all the craziness for six legislative sessions, and he paid for it with his own political career.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The New Democracy Tweet Storm

In convenient blog post format

So Democrats are meeting at "New Democracy" forum today today to discuss How To Win Back Rural America

The answer to How To Win Back Rural America depends on why you think Democrats lost so badly in 2016

One of the Iowa Democrats fundamental problems is: we can't agree on why we lost

I believe Dems lost Old White Male Rural Working Class America on broad spectrum of culture issues not economics

We did not lose on Her Emails or Her Wall Street Speeches or Her policies

(And since Her is out of the ball game She's irrelevant to the future anyway, this is about future not 2016)

We also did not lose on Corporate Greed and the minimum wage and the twin boogeyman of NAFTA/TPP

We lost on immigration and race and religion and guns and the whole cluster of gender/sexual issues

That can be summed up more briefly but only by putting taboo words in the mouth of the hypothetical voter

However I will repeat my 4 word explanation of the whole election: I Hate That Bitch

So here's the problem: If we lost on cultural issues, then focusing *even more* on economics does not help

This also means we cannot appeal to Old White Male Working Class Rural America without abandoning principle

and we cannot appeal to Old White Male Rural America without abandoning the true base of the Democratic Party

The true base of the Democratic Party is urban and diverse and not very white

We cannot turn our backs on the most loyal Democrats in order to appeal to voters who we have lost already

The long term path back to majority runs through Texas and Georgia and Arizona and North Carolina and Florida

The long term path back to majority does not run through the Rust Belt and sadly does not run through Iowa

I'm not saying this because I'm giving up, on winning in Iowa, though it will be hard... 

but because in the short to mid term, winning is more likely on the national level than in Iowa

The other problem is a problem of style - and this is directly about Sanders

Unlike Her, Sanders is still relevant as long as he acts like a candidate (which he will not be in the end) 

Sanders speaks a 60s Left language, not a New Deal language, and that's an active turnoff to many older voters

Socialist Revolution sounds like Draft Dodgers and Bra Burners and They're Coming To Take My Guns

Socialist & Revolution are words that appeal to the Grad Student Proletariat not Old White Male Rural America

We can't artificially force a Class Struggle language onto a nation that doesn't think or speak that way.

Just because it makes YOU feel smart and because you ideologically believe it SHOULD work doesn't mean it WILL.

People mistakenly think Sanders Votes especially in places like WV  = Votes For Socialist Revolution 

But a Yuge chunk of Sanders Votes were simply I Hate That Bitch Votes 

In a 2 way race @MartinOMalley would likely have scored 30% simply for being Not Hillary


Living in a blue academic island I may be in the worst possible place to understand Trumpism.

I don't know the right answer and if I did I'd run for something and win.  But I do know that...

...focusing even more on economics when we lost over cultural issues... 

...and deliberately using rhetorically hostile language to explain those economics, is the wrong answer.

Not saying this to be "divisive" or because I don't believe in some or even most of the "progressive" specifics

(though Free College is a hard sell to working people who already think the College Kids are the rich kids...)

(...and who can barely dream of admission for themselves or their own kids)

I'm saying this because I want to win and we need to win

And I see a lot of people in the party, or more accurately on the fringes outside the party...

...who want to lead us down a path that I believe will end in more damage and even worse defeats.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Kander: ID Laws "Not just a policy difference, a political strategy"

Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander pulled no punches Tuesday in describing ID laws and other vote suppression tools as "the centerpiece of Donald Trump's re-election strategy."

Kander spoke at the University of Iowa College of Law, and was also scheduled to speak at Drake Law Tuesday.

Kander led the Democratic ticket in Missouri last year, almost pulling off a U.S. Senate upset against incumbent Roy Blunt. After leaving office at year's end, Kander founded advocacy group Let America Vote.

While a losing Senate bid may seem like an unlikely launch pad for national ambitions,  Kander is still seen as a Democratic rising star. He'll be back in Iowa City on Oct. 21 at a fundraiser for state Senate Democrats, and Let America Vote recently opened a Des Moines office.

 "If politicians make it hard to vote, we'll make it hard for them to get re-elected," goes the Let America Vote tag line. "There urgently needs to be a political argument against vote suppression," said Kander. "This is not just a policy difference, it is a political strategy. Rather than change their policies, Republicans want to exclude people from democracy."

"Donald Trump's claim of 3 to 5 million illegal voters is the biggest lie a sitting president has ever told," said Kander, to which a student in the crowd replied, "Wait an hour."

Kander also took a shot at Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate. While legislatures and governors usually take the lead on voter restrictions in states where they have full control of government, he said, "Iowa is the only state in the nation where the Secretary of State personally proposed the voter ID law."

In contrast, he said, "I'm the only statewide candidate for Secretary of State who has run an ad against photo ID and won." ID laws remain popular on the surface, because of the common I Have To Show ID For Everything Else simplification, but Kander says support for ID laws may be shallow.

"It's hard to win an argument you don't make," said Kander, noting that arguments against ID laws have been lacking till recently. He said the most effective arguments against ID laws are cost to taxpayers and partisanship. "The average American has a real problem with partisanship."

"When Texas chose which IDs for voters to use, they picked drivers licenses and gun permits -  the two databases that are the most white," said Gerry Hebert, a Georgetown law professor who recently argued before the Supreme Court in a Wisconsin gerrymandering case. "We deliberately used elderly black veterans with long voter histories when we challenged that law and won."

Hebert doesn't always win - "If you're interested in losing a Supreme Court case 5 to 4, I'm your man," he  joked - but he's more optimistic in Gill v. Whitford.  "We think we have a workable standard of gerrymandering and we are hopeful we may have five votes."


In many states "redistricting really is a one party system, the Incumbent Party," said Kander, and historically that's how evenly divided Wisconsin drew its maps, until Scott Walker's Republicans took full control of state government in 2011 - just in time for redistricting.

The Wisconsin map under challenge was described in internal Republican documents as "Aggressively Maxed Out," the most partisan of several drafts. The question at hand is how to measure gerrymandering for partisan purposes, which Hebert says is "Theoretically possible - but the bar is extremely high."

What's new in the Wisconsin case is a measure called an "efficiency gap test," which compares the overall vote to the outcome in individual legislative races.

"In 2012, (Wisconsin Republicans) won 60 of the 99 seats in the Wisconsin Assembly despite winning only 48.6% of the two-party state-wide vote," writes the Brennan Center. "In 2014, they won 63 seats with only 52% of the state-wide vote."

Hebert noted that Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote in the case, directed particularly tough and pointed questions at the Wisconsin officials defending the map, while his own arguments were described in the Milwaukee newspapers as "Atticus Finch-like." The envy in the room from the aspiring lawyers was nearly audible. 

"Right now the Court is as good as it will be in at least the next four years, said Hebert. "This may be Justice Kennedy's last term. The window is closing."

Hebert said if the efficiency gap test is upheld and allowed to be used to challenge gerrymanders, "maybe 15 to 20 states might be in play."

Friday, October 06, 2017

City Council Election: The Grand Unifying Theory

After the epic battle and record setting turnout of last month's school bond vote, the November 7 Iowa City council election is feeling decidedly anti-climactic.

Iowa City council used to be the office that attracted Some Dude self-starter candidates, forcing low-turnout primaries to eliminate them and narrow the field to the Serious Contenders, usually two progressives of varying strength and two anointed old guard Chamber of Commerce Candidates, who would almost always win.

But in recent years the lines have become more clear, the self-starters have vanished (or run for county supervisor instead), and the progressives have gained strength, capped with the 2015 sweep by the "Core Four" that overthrew the Chamber faction and installed the first progressive-led council in modern city history. Not only is there, for the third cycle in a row, no primary - there are only three candidates for the two at-large seats for the first time since 1989.

This anti-climactic mood has been building, rather NOT building, for months, and throughout those months I've developed and privately shared a Grand Unifying Theory about the local Johnson County politics of 2017. Now that we're at end game, I'm ready to share it in public.
Salih, Hall and Botchway at a joint campaign event

Because the Core Four - Mayor Jim Throgmorton and council members Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and John Thomas - hold over until 2019, it is not possible for the Old Guard to win back control of Iowa City government this year. So instead, they appear to have decided that their priority for 2017 was the school bond. You spend some money, you build and improve some schools, you build some houses near those schools, you make some money.

But to pass a 60% bond vote, you need a broad based coalition, what I call the (former mayor) "John Balmer to John Deeth" alliance of all the pragmatists - progressives who want to build schools and developers who see new and improved schools as good for business.

Both sides have done this before on similar issues and both sides were willing partners against a divided opposition of absolutist anti-taxers, an increasingly isolated far left that opposes anything that could possibly benefit business simply because it could possibly benefit business, and individuals with individual grudges.

It's hard to work with a divided coalition, as the No side found out with its mixed messaging, so unity is important. And unity is difficult if your erstwhile ally in the school bond Yes coalition is getting ready to fight you tooth and nail two months later in the city council election. So it served the interest of both the Chamber conservatives and the pragmatic progressives to put the city council election on the back burner.

Progressives made a half-hearted search to find a challenger for Susan Mims (who is switching from the vote for two at large race she won in 2009 and 2013 to the vote for one district B race), but that fizzled. Meanwhile, the old guard has essentially conceded the seat of the retiring Terry Dickens. He currently holds the B seat, but with Mims switching seats, the vacancy is in the at large contest.  The Chamber faction is making only a token effort behind a so-far invisible Angela Winnike (whose seemingly hip "Night-time Mayor" role is really just a Downtown Association PR angle).

Dickens was first elected, along with Mims, in the record low turnout 2009 election that was decided on filing deadline day when they drew opposition only from three obscure students. Dickens will go down in Iowa City history as the last of his kind, an unreconstructed Love The Hawkeyes Hate The Students townie who literally ran for the council because he wanted to force the homeless to stop begging in front of his jewelry store.

There will be no more Terry Dickens or Ernie Lehmans or Dean Thornberrys or Dee Vanderhoefs, because even the old timers know that there's no longer a majority in Iowa City who will vote for someone like that. They know that to win, they need to win over some of the soft-liberal vote with someone with some University ties, like a Tim Conroy (who came close in 2015 but very noticeably sat this cycle out) or a Mims. And the chamber crowd knows that if there's going to be ANY hope of re-taking business control of the city in 2019, they need to mollify the soft liberals and be seen as socially progressive.

Which boxes them in for this year because of who the progressives are running.

Incumbent Kingsley Botchway, a Core Four ally seeking re-election, has had a solid first term, first with two years on the short end of a 2014-15 council with a 5-2 old guard majority, then as mayor pro tem on the current 5-2 progressive council. He's taken a lead on issues like affordable housing, food insecurity, and racial equity, which mesh well with his day job as the school district's Director of Equity & Engagement. (Tangent: That's a job once held by former mayor Ross Wilburn, who's now in the governor's race.)

Rookie candidate Mazahir Salih is seeking to become the first member of Iowa City's growing Sudanese community to win an election. She arrived in America 20 years ago, settled in Iowa City a few years later to earn a medical technician degree, and helped found the Center for Worker Justice, which has been a powerful engine for helping and organizing the labor, immigrant, and low wage community.

America may be in backlash mode, but Iowa City is ground zero for the backlash to the backlash. Electing an immigrant who wears a headscarf is exactly the kind of middle finger to Trump message the People's Republic would love to send. In the long term big picture, the local business conservatives know they need to not be seen as Trump conservatives.

And since the old guard can't retake control till 2019, a 6-1 council split is no worse than a 5-2 split. They figure it'll be easier to win three of the four seats in 2019 than to win two of the three seats this year. So it's smarter for them to cede the Dickens seat rather than beat up on Salih, the immigrant woman, or on Botchway, the only African American council incumbent.


Tangent: Well worth a read is Iowa University Towns and the Twenty-sixth Amendment: The First Test of the Newly Enfranchised Student Vote in 1971, an academic look at that year's city elections.

Executive summary: Cedar Falls elected a student mayor, the old guard triumphed in Ames, and multiple Iowa City student candidates splintered the votes and lost in the primary.
But it's still OK to beat up on a student.

Ryan Hall was a late entering self-starter in the District B race but he's annexed the progressive opposition to Mims. Hall is hoping to become the first student to win a council race since David Perret won a second term in 1979. (No, Mid-American minion Michelle Payne's part time classes don't count.) Hall has an environmental and Americorps background, is a fast learner, and already seems much more up to speed than most past student candidates have been.

The bugaboo of students taking over the city has been the scare tactic of the townies since the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 in 1971, a prejudice that peaked during the three 21 bar elections (2007, 2010, 2013) and the 2011 run by Raj Patel, a successful businessman who lost solely because he was 20 years old.  Botchway, 28 when he won his first race four years ago, was the youngest winner since Perret, and despite the law degree even he faced some age-based resistance.

Kingsley and Mazahir - they both tend to be first-namers - are both are in Work Like You're 30 Points Behind campaign mode, despite the seemingly weak Winnike bid. The Botchway, Salih and Hall yard signs appear in clusters of two and three, but  the Mims signs stand alone.

It's clear that the priority of the Establishment (I laugh so hard at getting called "establishment" just because of one vote at one caucus) is keeping Mims as a voice on the council, to carry the ball through 2018 and into what will inevitably be a brutal 2019 contest. 

The Mims tagline is "trusted experience," and the squash a fly with a sledgehammer attack is beginning:
Susan’s opponent, Ryan Hall, is a 24-year-old University of Iowa undergrad who moved to Iowa City a year ago. Based on his presentations so far, there is little difference between their political leanings (sic). It does not make sense to replace her proven skills and deep awareness of our community with an unproven candidate. 
And the age old scare tactic: 
Efforts to rally undergraduate non-voters to support Hall based on his age alone is building momentum.
As I always note: Individual students come and go, but the student community is a permanent part of the Iowa City community, and a part of the community that has gone unrepresented for almost 40 years. When our community looks at its diversity, the diversity of the student population is too often overlooked, and a student would be a welcome addition to the council. So what if the old timers are shut out. Lots of parts of the community were shut out during their decades in power.

So we play out this election for field position, and the stakes are whether the establishment faction needs three out of four or a clean sweep to regain control in 2019.

Monday, October 02, 2017

What Happened In Vegas

I've often said I just wish the NRA would admit what we all know: they believe mass shootings are simply the price we pay for "freedom."





Today someone finally did. Bill O'Reilly. 

"Once again, the big downside of American freedom is on gruesome display.  A psychotic gunman in Las Vegas has committed the worst mass murder in U. S. history. ...

This is the price of freedom.  Violent nuts are allowed to roam free until they do damage, no matter how threatening they are.

The Second Amendment is clear that Americans have a right to arm themselves for protection.  Even the loons."

And this is why nothing will happen. A sizable minority of Americans actually define of "freedom" in terms of holding a weapon and that that these shootings, while sad and tragic, literally are the cost of freedom. And unlike gun control advocates, who are scattered across the political spectrum, the gun cult is willing to vote solely on this issue.

(This is the White Working Class that we're trying to Win Back with a rhetoric of Socialist Revolution.)

It's depressing and discouraging, but I appreciate Billo's directness and honesty Now I have a quite I can point to next time it happens. And there will be a next time.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Kids Win, No On Everything Faction Loses in Iowa City School Vote

Iowa City School District voters crushed the nay-sayers and shattered every turnout record in the books Tuesday as the $191 million bond issue passed with a solid 65-35% win.

The turnout really is the biggest story of the day. I have been expecting a record for months. In the early spring I put my best analysis to the test - because turnout projections are literally part of my job -  and months ago I was projecting about 5500 early votes and 10,000 at the polls - my exact number was 15,653.

That scared me, because that meant we were expecting more than 1500 voters each in Coralville and North Liberty - because of combined school precincts, that's bigger than presidential crowds.

(Tangent: While I didn't like the bill combining city and school elections effective in 2019, I will not miss explaining to voters that school precincts are different - which I spent most of the day doing.)

I had also expected huge lines in the February 2003 school bond, my benchmark for this election, and the election I considered the "real" record. Technically we were higher in December 1992, but as I explained in the prior post that was kind of a fluke because of a failed satellite voting experiment.

Our early vote numbers were even higher in 2003 than this year. But instead that turned out to be our first ever election with more early voters than election day voters.

My early vote projections were dead on; we counted 5,398 votes. So as I waited for the first turnout update at 9 AM, that was my question: Is it the scenario I expected, with about a third of the vote cast early and 10,000 at the polls? Or will this be another 50% early vote election?

We soon learned that it was the first scenario, so I spend the day fretting about lines and supplies. Once you're in the zone of Above The All Time Record, it gets very hard to predict by how much. (This turnout record will stand forever, because this was the last school board election. Beginning in 2019 school elections will be combined with the November city election.)

All the voters got taken care off and the final result exceeded my projection by a bit, with 11,324 at the polls and a grand total of 16,702. And we pushed 1975 voters through North Liberty, an all time record for a single school precinct. 

But Lemme had the highest percentage turnout, at 22.8%. And that was my POLITICAL worry of the day. Was the vote at Lemme the Save Hoover vote, looking to scuttle the whole plan? Or was it the City High vote. looking for the Hoover lot adjacent to the high school for expansion? It turned out to be the former, as Yes led 63-37 at Lemme, just a hair below the district total.

In fact, Yes was a very consistent winner across the district, topping 60% in every precinct except an overwhelming No vote in Hills. They're always the weakest supporters of school money issues, and Hills was subjected to the They're Gonna Close Your School scare tactics of the No campaign. They're also, by far, the smallest school precinct.

My other, anecdotal worry was an unusually large number of voters asking where to vote in the Twain precinct.  The southeast side has also historically leaned against school funding. It's a polarized area, with a young minority community that's less likely to vote next to a lot of older empty nesters who do vote. Not only did these voters not know they voted at Twain for school elections - they had no idea where the school was!  But even Twain, just barely, voted 60% Yes.

The Mercer precinct also voted 60% yes despite the heavy concentration of senior voters that make up part of the 20% anti-taxer Automatic No vote any money measure faces.

North Liberty, as mentioned, saw a spike, and I was convinced that the high North Liberty vote was Liberty High Football Field vote. They voted 71% yes. But the highest Yes vote was in the Manville Heights precinct. Despite Team No pushing the They're Gonna Close Lincoln School scare tactic, the doctors and professors voted 73% Yes.

I can always tell what an election is REALLY about by voter comments: "Can I vote in the county attorneys election?" "I want to vote for supervisor, and how soon can I change my party back." This election I heard "I want to vote on the bond" and "do I have to vote on everything?"

Over a quarter of voters, 28%, skipped the two-year school board race, and the average voter cast just 2.2 of their three votes in the full term race. That's people who voted for two, or one, or skipped it entirely.

But only 0.4% (74 out of 16,702) of voters skipped the bond. That's a lower under vote than you see for president. That's people who made mistakes marking their ballot.



The fiscal conservative 20% Automatic No faction loses none of their very little credibility; there are just X number of people who hate government and hate taxes, even in the People's Republic. (A lot of my stress over the outcome came from waiting on voters at the counter who had just paid their property taxes, which come due at the end of this month.)

People campaigning for Yes votes on any bond just have to work around them, and have to know that they have to get their 60% from the remaining 80%.

Put another way, a Yes campaign needs to get 3/4 of the persuadable voters, a very difficult near-consensus level that requires a a broad based coalition of the center, near left, and near right. Or as I say, you need everyone from John Balmer to John Deeth - and Yes had both of us.

But in addition to the Anti-Tax Automatic No vote, Johnson County has another faction, a faux "progressive" faction, that would rather destroy than build. A faction that asks the impossible and attacks workable plans because they aren't perfect. A faction that consistently aims their bitter anger at the wrong targets, and that disguises personal vendettas with misleading and flat out wrong "facts." A faction that has scuttled at least two  good candidates over narrow issues. A faction that looks at a broad coalition of the sensible center and accuses labor and the pragmatic progressives of being sell-outs to Big Business.

This No To Everything Left faction, and the Save Hoover faction it allied with, goes down as the election's biggest loser. If the No campaign had simply shut up and let the considerable doubt simmer, or if they had let some of the more sensible anti-tax conservatives be their visible leaders, they might have gained the five points they needed.

But by letting their most disingenuous and abrasive people be their public faces - should I name the three names or do I even need to bother? - No's campaign effort probably cost itself more votes than it gained. They were the loudest voices, but they've now been shown up as weak and non-influential. Those faces have now damaged their credibility for other causes and candidates they support.

Case in point: the board races.



Since Yes outnumbered No, and since people who don't care about education policy beyond "don't raise my taxes" were more likely to skip the board races, the three full term seats were swept with a big margin for the three Yes candidates.

I had projected J.P. Claussen in first place, which wasn't hard. He was a Yes on the bond but he was seen as an acceptable enough school district administration critic that he was a third choice for a lot of No voters. Claussen was in first place everywhere except the anomalous Hills precinct where he was a close second.

The race for second was close, with Ruthina Malone just 268 votes ahead of Janet Godwin. Malone had some small advantages: a labor endorsement and support from a number of "vote for two" Yes voters who backed her and Claussen.  Malone was second across most of Iowa City, while Godwin ran second in Coralville and North Liberty and on the west side.

Godwin in third ran FAR - 3300+ votes - ahead of fourth place finisher Laura Westemeyer, who was the only explicit Vote No and Fire Murley candidate. Westemeyer 's only bright spot was Hills, which she lives near. She won and Claussen was a close second; Hills had the highest under-vote share so it appears they voted for just two. But the district's smallest precinct, with just 1% of the district wide vote, is a weak electoral base to say the least.

Westemeyer edged to 37% at the old City High precinct (now voting at Our Redeemer Church) where most of the Save Hoover vote lives, but she was under a third of the vote everywhere else.

I wish Karen Woltman had chosen a better race and better allies for her first electoral run. She tried to hedge on the bond but was clearly IDd as a No, and the yard signs seemed deliberately designed to resemble the SAVE HOOVER look. Woltman was last in every precinct, only inching above 30% in the Hoover area.

The two year race was the only close contest. Shawn Eyestone, who had switched over from the full term race, rode a lead in Coralville and his own North Liberty to a close win over Charlie Eastham. Both Eyestone and Claussen had lost earlier races.

Clear Creek Amana also passed a bond, with much less controversy and a near record 71.1% yes; the February 2003 Iowa City bond was just a tenth of a point more popular.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Numbers to watch today

Record turnout for a regular Iowa City School District election is 8733 in 2013. This is certain to be broken; we already have already 5000+ early votes. Perspective: Until 2013 the ICCSD turnout record was 5814 in 1995. (That election included the bond that built Wickham school.) We have almost that many EARLY votes already.

Today's record will stand forever since this is the last regularly scheduled September school election. Starting in 2019, school election will be combined with the November of odd years city election.

The best ICCSD comparison for today's turnout would be with the February 2003 bond vote total of 12,480 voters  (School precincts were different then, so only the grand total is useful to compare.)

The record ICCSD bond turnout was 13,139 on 12/8/1992. That's well within reach today.  Turnout was boosted that election by offering December school ballots at satellite sites in the final days before the November presidential election. We were still learning how to do satellite voting back then, and this turned out to be a very bad idea that confused voters. (Lots of wrong ballot in wrong envelope kind of mistakes.)

Check back late late tonight for analysis.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Labor Day Roll Call

It's become a Labor Day tradition for me to post a roll call of the politicians present at the Iowa City Federation Of Labor picnic. Which I did via Twitter but I've had an ask for a one-stop list.t
It's another tradition that Dave Loebsack shows up VERY early at the noon-starting event on his way between the larger QC and Burlington events.

Two of the 74 governor candidates showed up:

On to the local stuff. We're eight days away from the school election and the three labor endorsed candidates were on hand: J.P. Claussen and Ruthina Malone for the full terms and Charlie Eastham for the two year term. The Yes bond campaign was working the crowd. (Some prominent opponents were also on site and may have been talking, but weren't handing anything out; labor has endorsed a Yes vote.)

 Also attending were not-endorsed Janet Godwin (who had a good labor survey and interview) and Karen Woltman (who entered the race late after endorsements were made) and board incumbent Phil Hemingway, who's in mid-term and not on the ballot.

City Fed has also made its Iowa City council endorsements, and all three were present: incumbent Kingsley Botchway and newcomer Mazahir Salih in the at large race and challenger Ryan Hall from the District B race. The off-cycle incumbents were well represented with mayor Jim Throgmorton and council members Rockne Cole and Pauline Taylor.

Endorsements have not been made yet in Coralville, but candidates Meghann Foster and Elizabeth Dinschel were in attendance along with mid-term incumbent Mitch Gross.

County employees were better represented by bosses than rank and file members (I may have been the only one). All five supervisors - Mike Carberry, Kurt Friese, Lisa Green-Douglass, Janelle Rettig, and Rod Sullivan - were at the picnic, though not all at once. Rettig and Carberry are up for re-election next year. Also spotted: Pat Heiden, who finished a very close fourth behind Friese in the 2016 primary for three seats and has been very visible ever since.

County Recorder Kim Painter and County Attorney Janet Lyness were also on hand. Both are on the ballot next year; Painter has seen no opposition since her first term in 1998, and Lyness crushed a 2014 primary opponent by more than two to one.

All three Johnson County state senators - Bob Dvorsky, Joe Bolkcom, and Kevin Kinney - are up next year and all were on hand, along with Rep. Mary Mascher.

Friday, August 25, 2017

My Eclipse


The beauty of the mechanics of the universe, one of God's greatest miracles.

Since I was six years old, during the 1970 event, I have wanted to see a total eclipse of the sun. On Monday, that dream came true. Words have largely failed me since, but as part of my new blogging plan of taking my tweet storms and Facebook posts and archiving them here, I'll try to sum up.

I did not take the photos above. I know just enough about photography to know that astronomical photos are tricky and just enough about astronomy to know that the solar corona is especially hard to capture. So I decided long in advance to simply watch.

And dude, Total Eclipse is a band you gotta see live.

Since seeing the eclipse, I have not been in the mood to Facebook fight about counterproductive political crap, and I'm trying to keep that euphoria going. Though politics, as always, came up even on Eclipse Day.


But Twitter's winner for the day without question was The Boss:

I missed the first day of early voting for the school election:
(Don't worry, I got voted on Wednesday.)

So the eclipse was everything I wanted and more, and now I'm trying to choose a spot for April 8. 2024. I'm thinking Cleveland and the  Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Maybe Bruce will loan me some eclipse shades.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Farmer's Market Fascism

I'm happy with the way things went down at the Farmer's Market.

Vendor has idiotic opinions, looks even more foolish trying to defend himself.

City says no, we can't ban him or break his contract just because of his opinions.

Citizens organize, express their opposition to his opinion, inform the public, and recruit other vendors to their side.

Other citizens decide they would prefer not to do business with a bigot. Business suffers.

This is how it is supposed to work - not with bans, but with the truth winning in the marketplace of ideas.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mein Trumpf, Zweites Buch


There's a lot of scary numbers in this HuffPo poll, but my takeaway post-Charlottesville is: Ballpark of 20% of America really believes this crap. Not to the swastikas level, maybe, but they really do think that Those People are Out Of Line and need to Get Back In Their Place, and that the tiki torch brigade "took it too far" but had some good ideas.  And they would say so themselves if they felt the social and economic independence to do so.


These are the voters who nominated Donald Trump, specifically because of his ethno-nationalism message, spoken openly rather than in thinly veiled code.

But he was elected because the rest of the Republican Party was willing to ignore it.

If "mainstream" Republicans had been serious in their "Never Trump" denunciations, they would have abandoned party for the only viable Stop Trump candidate - Hillary Clinton. That's what many did in 1964 with the then-inacceptable Barry Goldwater. They punted, then they won four years later. And there were fleeting moments of hints of this around convention time.

But those hints faded. First, no one thought Trump would actually win, Then, at end game, they knew he Trump would sign whatever McConnell and Ryan would pass and would appoint staunch conservative judged. So they were willing to overlook Trump's explicit racism/sexism in the hopes he would tone it down once in office, and would be content as a figurehead - which he is in some ways

But the racism/sexism is the one thing Trump really believes, and the mass rallies are the one aspect of the "job" he enjoys. He never wanted the JOB - he wanted the WIN. And beating the most qualified woman in American history just made it sweeter for him.

Part of the problem is Trump, but the bigger problem is the 20% or so of America that actually supports his ethno-nationalism. This is the stock in trade that Steve King has been peddling for 15 years - the anti-feminist, anti-immigrant, anti-liberal stuff that his constituents can't quite define, but can label as "political correctness."

I was saying this months before the caucuses and years ago about Steve King: the Trump base genuinely wants a white monocultural America. They voted for him because they literally want the wall and actually believes in mass deportation. They haven't quite figured out what to do with African Americans yet, but they know they don't want to hear anyone speaking Spanish or any other foreign languages in America.

And I think Trump actually wants these things too. I thing he legitimately does believe that anyone who is not a wealthy white American male is a lesser being. His base is willing to overlook the "wealthy" part, because they dream of becoming rich themselves

It's these cultural things, not "economic anxiety," that shifted the non-college white male working class to Trump, and the only way to win them back is to abandon  the true multicultural base of the modern Democratic party. Which is why, though I will go down fighting, I believe Iowa is lost. We are too old and too white. Texas and Georgia and Arizona will flip to the Democrats, but Iowa is moving the other way.


I say this privately a lot and rarely get disagreement - but you get pushed out of discussion groups if you dare suggest, for example, that the 4th CD is not winnable under any circumstances for a Democrat. Or that a message of Socialism! and Revolution! will win back old white men who are pissed off about "political correctness" because they got called into HR for telling the same Mexican Walks Into A Bar joke their dads used to tell. To these guys, Donald Trump is an aspirational fantasy - a guy (apparantly) so rich that he can day and do anything he wants with no consequences.

And I'm tired of being expected to pretend shit that ain't true.

I don't see a scenario in which the business/mainstream wing of the Republican Party is willing to abandon Trump, the Trumpists, and Trumpism. And that is a big big part of the problem.

I spent way too much of 2016 reading and re-reading Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. But from that I remember that the Nazi base, the core of genuine anti-semitic Brown Shirt Support, peaked at about 20%. It was only when the Nazis became the de facto party of big business to stop the left that they became the largest party in 1932.  So the "mainstream" conservatives bore some responsibility then - as they do now.

The other fatal mistake in 1930s Germany was the bitter split between center-left and the far left, spurred by the dogmatism of the far left. The Communists were more focused on defeating the Social Democratic Party, which they called "Social Fascists," than in beating the actual fascists. And I fear the repetition of that mistake.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Old Enough To Fight, Old Enough To Smoke?

I hate having to agree with Paul LePage, the Little Trump of Maine, but he does have a point:

Gov. Paul LePage said again Tuesday that he would propose increasing the age to vote or join the military to 21 to be consistent with a new law hiking the legal age to buy tobacco.
“This law subverts the United States Constitution and attempts to ‘social engineer’ legal behavior by adults who want to use a legal product that you don’t like,” LePage wrote to lawmakers on Tuesday. “If you don’t believe 18-year-olds are adults who can make their own decisions, then I hope you will support legislation that increases the voting age to 21 and prevents military service until a person turns 21.”
Unfortunately for LePage, two things would stand in his way: the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. military...
The 26th Amendment, passed in 1971 was only in part about voting rights. It was about the age of adulthood, and really about Vietnam and the draft. "Old enough to fight, old enough to vote" was too powerful an argument to ignore, and rather than give up the Vietnam draftees, they decided to lower the voting age, and the amendment passed in record time

So in the middle of the most unpopular war in our history, we decided by a supermajority that 18 year olds were adults. We believed it so strongly that we locked it into the Constitution itself.

As the 70s continued, we expanded that 18 Is Adult concept into other areas of the law, most notably the drinking age. But by the 80s we started rolling those rights back, starting with the drinking age, and now continuing into smoking.
But we did it differently. We had expanded adult rights to 18 year olds by enshrining it in the Constitution. But in the 80s with alcohol and now with tobacco, we're taking rights away by mere legislation & ordinances.

The fact that we put it in the Constitution, rather than passing mere legislation, means a lot to me, and that needs to be part of any discussion of the issue.

Sadly, in this era you probably could pass an amendment taking the vote away from 18-19-20 year olds, especially since they vote disproportionately Democratic, and disenfranchisement seems to be Page One of the GOP playbook these days.

Through the three bar elections, it was nearly impossible to get anyone to engage me on the issue at this level. It's always: "Yeah, but I hate drunk assholes." And, now, "I hate smokers." (So much of the rhetoric of anti-smokING is really anti-smokER and vilifies people for their own struggle with addiction.)
Most people, even legislators, privately concede to me that 21 is not about 19 and 20 year old college students drinking. No one cares much about that unless they're doing something else that causes trouble. 21 is about 18 year old high school seniors buying for younger friends. To which I say, graduate people at 17, like Harry Potter and I did (oh, wait, Harry never went back to school for year seven) and punish actual offenders instead.

Maybe 18 Is Adult was a mistake, and I know far too well and personally the harm of young adult drinking. If I could change one thing about my life from 17 to 21 - my entire life, really - I would not drink. Alcohol abuse cost me an extra year of college, a point off my GPA and my first serious relationship.

But the age of majority should be consistent and I would rather expand rights than take rights away, even if those rights, like smoking, drinking, and gambling, are of dubious merit.Things would have been very, very different if, instead of expanding voting rights so they could keep shipping 18 year old draftees to Vietnam, they had raised the draft age to 21 instead. 

All I know is no military recruiter should be allowed to contact or even SPEAK to someone who can't order a beer.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Turn Around Bright Eyes: The Solar Eclipse Play List

I saw a very slim crescent moon last night which means you can now watch the moon and literally count days until it passes right smack in the way of the sun on the August 21 total eclipse.

I've got about a 5 1/2 hour drive to Columbia, Missouri, where I'll be watching the eclipse, and when I have a drive, I need a playlist. It's unfortunately old and uncool, but long time readers know I quit caring.

Let 's get THIS over with first:



Bonnie Tyler's overwrought camp classic has very little if anything to do with astronomy, even if you really stretch and count "your love is like a shadow on me all of the time." Eclipses do involve shadows but they don't happen All Of The Time. In fact, on average any given place on Earth only sees a total eclipse every 375 years. (Carbondale, Illinois is above average and double dipping; they get another one in just seven years on April 8, 2024.)

"Total Eclipse Of The Heart" is just a turn of a phrase by Jim Steinman, the man who gave us Meat Loaf. And if either the moon or sun were heart shaped there would be serious issues with gravity.  But because it's the only song most people can think of that actually has "Total Eclipse" right there in the name, we'll be hearing it all of eclipse week, just like we heard "1999" all over again that one New Years.




Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon is a better listen, and concludes with astronomical accuracy: "There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark." The closing song is even called "Eclipse" and it runs just over two minutes, the approximate duration of totality.

As the narrator notes, "dark side of the moon" is often used incorrectly to refer to the FAR side of the moon that perpetually faces away from Earth. The far side of the moon will be the LIGHT side of the moon during the eclipse, and the near side will be the dark side as it blocks the sun. You may be able to glimpse the surface features of the moon, lit by "earthshine," during totality.

Despite claims by Tori Amos on her 2007 American Doll Posse album, there is absolutely no "Dark Side Of The Sun." Tori clearly flunked Astronomy 101 and needs to listen to They Might Be Giants:



Nice beret. They also offer classes in Turkish geography.

Let's see what more we can learn about eclipses from our playlist.

"Moon Shadow" by Cat Stevens - because an eclipse is the moon's shadow on the earth. If you're being followed by a moon shadow, it'll catch up to you very, very quickly since it's traveling at about 1600 MPH.

I always found this song's imagery of losing parts of your body kind of disturbing when I was a kid. And if I ever lose my eyes... well, then, I guess I won't see the eclipse, will I?




Planet Earth is still mourning the loss of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell but you can sing "black hole sun, won't you come" as you wait for totality, because that's what it looks like. His later effort with Audioslave, "Shadow On The Sun," is astronomically inaccurate. Honorable mention: "Under The Big Black Sun" by X.


"Blinded By The Light" - You can choose the Springsteen original (the eclipse is only 78% total in Asbury Park, New Jersey) or the Manfred Mann hit version, but you'll be Blinded by The Light if you look at the partial phases of the eclipse without proper eye protection. For this reason, "Cheap Sunglasses" by ZZ Top should not be on the playlist.

My eclipse glasses are Stevie Wonder/Ray Charles dark, but looking at the sun through them looks like a rising orange full moon. Honorable mention: U2's "Staring At The Sun."




"Total Eclipse," Iron Maiden: From the classic The Number Of The Beast album, which you know is totally kick-ass because the cover looks like Tipper Gore's nightmare.  This one captures the superstition and fear ancient societies felt about eclipses:
Cold as steel the darkness waits, it's hour will come
A cry of fear for the chosen worshipping the sun
Mother natures black revenge on those who waste her life
War babies in the garden of Eden shall turn our ashes to ice
They could have just cranked this one to 11 and it would have scared the shit out of the sun-eating dragon. Speaking of goes to 11, you do NOT want to hear Spinal Tap's "Rainy Day Sun" on August 21.



"New Moon On Monday," Duran Duran: Because the eclipse is on a Monday and a total eclipse only occurs at new moon. No word on whether a lonely satellite will be visible during totality, but it may be a cold day; there will be a noticeable temperature drop even in places with a significant partial eclipse. The loss of light is enough that it'll affect solar power generation.

"Earth And Sun and Moon," Midnight Oil: Actually that should be "Earth and Moon And Sun." The lineup of Earth, sun, moon would be Bad.


And while the end of totality may be bittersweet, the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun" is an easy choice.

If you want less music and more actual information, nationaleclipse.com is a great resource. You're probably too late for a day off work or booking a hotel, and traffic may be challenging on E-Day. (Normally when I say "E-Day" I mean Election Day.) But I've seen a heavy partial eclipse, in 1979, and even that is pretty cool.

A total eclipse, though, has been on my bucket list since the March 7, 1970 eclipse that Carly Simon so famously sang about. Pro tip: If you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia, you'd be in one of the worst places to watch with just 57% totality.

Not on the list: "It's Alright Ma I'm Only Bleeding," Bob Dylan. Opening line "Darkness at the break of noon" should make it an automatic. But he loses points for the astronomically impossible "eclipses both the sun and moon," and gets crossed off entirely for "even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked." Not even Melania wants to see that.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Caucuses set for February 5, 2018

For me the big news out of Saturday's Democratic state central committee meeting wasn't the much-deserved election of Troy Price as the new party chair. It was the approval of the 2018 Caucus To Convention Calendar:
  • Caucus: Monday, February 5
  • County Conventions: Saturday, March 24
  • District Conventions: Saturday, April 28, sites to be set later by district committees
  • State Convention: Saturday, June 16, Des Moines
Good. Now I can get some work done.

There had been rumours of Saturday, February 3, but those didn't materialize. I've always liked the Saturday idea but historically, there have been Jewish objections. (My Saturday night idea never caught on.) We tried it once, in 2010, and got our usual low off-year turnout.
Technical tangent: Officially, the governor year caucuses aren't "off year caucuses," they're just "caucuses." The same precinct-based process except no presidential stuff. The "off year caucus" is a county-wide event held in the spring of odd years that functionally is just a big central committee meeting where we pass resolutions. In my opinion, the off-year caucus is one of the less useful things we do. And it's cost me this paragraph. From here on out, any references to "off-year" mean governor year, not odd year.
The reason for going back to the traditional Monday is probably because, as near as I can tell, Republicans have chosen the same night. That's not as critical in an off-year, but it's essential in a presidential year.

The caucuses are a party meeting, not an election, and the check and balance against people participating in both parties is holding them at the same time. All it would take would be one person in a presidential year bragging about attending both caucuses and "voting" twice, and there would be a likely fatal wound to our First in The Nation status.

Any discussion of caucuses, even off year, invariably leads into a discussion of process and First, and that's what happened yesterday on my Twitter feed (that's now my primary medium, though the ole blog stays around for long form stuff like this).

My sense is that most people who are willing to give up First and just vote in the June primary have no concept what that will mean. In January 2020 they'd be asking "where are the candidates? It's only five months till the primary!" In May 2020, Presumptive Nominee will be in California and New York raising money.

See, people forget that most nomination contests don't play out like 2008 and 2016, with a close campaign going through every primary state and every state having at least some significance. (Though `16 wasn't really that close.) Most years are more like 2004, when one candidate gets a big lead and the others recognize reality and quit. The June state ballots look more like this:
However, in the last 18 months I've heard more and more Iowans saying yes, they would be happy to give up the hoopla and simply vote in a primary. I'm actually more agnostic on that existential question than people think. Part of me would rather get paid extra overtime in a presidential primary than burn vacation days doing stuff that is almost exactly like my job to set up caucuses. But I just want people to understand that it's an either/or trade off.

Anyway, if you're really interested in the presidential year stuff go back and look at my posts from that era; my thoughts haven't changed much. But since I'm not good enough for the caucus review committee, what do I know.
 Let's get back to the matter at hand: February 5, 2018.

These caucuses may draw a bit more attention than a typical off-year cycle because of the large field for governor. As anyone reading a political blog on a weekend knows, Iowa law requires a candidate to win 35% in a primary to be nominated, or else the party convention chooses a nominee. Republicans had an epic convention in the 3rd CD in 2014, and since then convention loser Brad Zaun has been trying to change the law and institute a runoff instead.

Democrats haven't had a convention because of the 35% law in a long time. The last I know of was in a Waterloo legislative seat in 2002. There was some talk of it in 2006 when we initially had four serious candidates for governor plus a Some Dude. But not long before the caucuses Patty Judge dropped out of the governor's race to become Chet Culver's running mate.

Still, with three serious candidates, a primary stalemate could have happened if things had broken exactly even. It almost happened to Republicans in 2002 when nominee Doug Gross was at just 35.6%, and Culver only won with about 39.

This year the field is even bigger with six serious contenders and a couple more guys who are a notch or two above Some Dude. And the overall process awareness, activist interest, and internal contentiousness level is higher than it's been in a long time. So we can expect very high attendance by the off-year standard, though certainly nothing approaching the Who Live In Cincinnati levels Johnson County saw in 2016.

In 2006, Johnson County saw preference groups in a handful of precincts. I'm not sure if rules have changed but at that time preference groups could happen if 15% of the room wants them.

That could be a training issue, as it was in the 2012 presidential year. Chairs went in expecting no preference groups and were startled when Uncommitted groups emerged. In some places in 2012 people were simply told, incorrectly, "there are no preference groups."

My sense is that compared to a presidential race, even compared to an Obama vs. Uncommitted "race," the governor nomination four months out is still very inside baseball, even to the core party activists who attend this stuff. My sense is also that by the time we get to February 5 the field for governor will shrink and the urgency of a caucus strategy will recede.

Still, the smart campaigns will have a strategy. Even without alignment, there may be contested races for the delegate seats that usually go begging in an off-year. And with alignment you may see some strange coalitions. Attendance will likely be low enough that the groups will default to Candidate Putting Most Emphasis On Convention vs. Everyone Else In Uncommitted.

So the work of scheduling the sites and recruiting and training the chairs begins. Once again, in Johnson County the Republicans and Democrats are planning to work together, and I highly recommend that approach to everyone else.

Typically in an off year we cluster our caucuses, hosting multiple precincts in different rooms of the same building and doing some of the explanation and presentation stuff in one large group. That also means that in the places where you can't recruit a chair or where your chair is a rookie, there's an experienced "cluster commander" on hand to help. I've run as many as three caucuses at once, with the caveat that one was just the one person who showed up and another was three people.

Clustering is tricky and you can overdo it depending on the geography of your county. In 2012 Chicago was telling us that they wanted five sites total in our county. The emphasis was on the live video link with the president (which one of the Uncommitteds called "the Obama Nuremburg rally").  We pushed back to add a couple more in the outlying towns. We weren't going to tell Solon they had to come in to the east side of Iowa City. On the other hand, some small counties may choose to have just one cluster, and then the same exact people will meet in the same exact place on March 24 for the county convention.

Anyway, friendly advice. Now is the time to get started on this stuff, and now is the time to talk to your county leaders about it. And if you want a better process, don't complain, volunteer.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Lazy Dynamite or Power Cut?


There was never any PLAN for a five week hiatus, it just happened that way. With the legislative session over, I didn't feel the need for long-form hyper-detailed posts, and as for local stuff, I have a Grand Unifying Theory but what I know I'm not saying.

I kept tweeting, of course - Twitter's really my main medium now. But all I really intended was a brief British Election Break.
But when I saw people on Facebook saying "I didn't know you had a blog," I knew I had been slacking.

I still don't have anything lengthy to say so I'll just look back over June, string the fragments together, and hope it turns out like side two of "Abbey Road" and not like side two of "Red Rose Speedway." Younger readers may need to look that up.  I had to explain my joke "I heard rumours but I prefer Tusk" to a young prospective candidate this week.
Trump came to Cedar Rapids and I mostly ignored him.

There was the debacle in House District 22 where Democrat Ray "The Streak" Stevens didn't get his papers turned in. Confession: I would have made the same mistake in 1996 when I was a late-starting convention candidate, but the state party had a staffer follow up with me. So whose fault?

It was always a long shot, but maybe a lost opportunity: the two Republicans (Slightly Silly and Very Silly) split the vote almost equally with the winner at only 44%, and the Libertarian drew off a few.

Sadly we have another special election with the death of Fairfield Democrat Curt Hanson. This one promises to be much more competitive; the 2009 special in which Hanson was first elected drew national attention and outside spending.

And there's a special election for Iowa Democratic Party chair... but no one seems to want the job.
I'm less upset by fireworks than most of my liberal friends, perhaps because I have teenage boys and thus used to unpredictable loud noises. But I never understood why fireworks were SUCH a high priority for Republicans and why they are considered SO important as a FREEDOM! thing.

My unpopular but strongly held opinion: The 4th CD is unwinnable for a Democrat, but we need someone credible who can run, maintain dignity, and boost the rest of the ticket. That's a lot to ask of someone for a no-shot race. Do any of our 74 candidates for governor live there?
Ross Wilburn does: I discovered the former Iowa City mayor's (he moved to Ames) committee for governor without even trying. I was looking at the Iowa Ethics website looking for SCHOOL candidates when I saw his committee had been sitting out there for a week. So I tweeted it and it looks like I was first.  Mainstream press accounts started about six hours later, none mentioning my minor scoop.

I finally found a clip that sums up my feelings about the platform committee:



Must follow Twitter Accounts:


I don't really have an ending so I'll close with a reprise of the British election beginning like Pink Floyd closed "Animals."


Thursday, June 01, 2017

Once Again, No Supervisor District Vote in Johnson County

Linn County looks set for yet another election about government reorganization on August 1. But once again, a deadline has passed, and Johnson County will not be considering a change to a district system for electing county supervisors this year. So I'm doing the every other year update of this post.

Johnson County Republicans have been on-again, off-again working on a district petition for several years, with varying degrees of intensity. It's hard to collect over 7700 signatures (10% of the presidential vote) without people hearing about it.

In 2008, when Republicans needed more than 7,000 names in just two weeks for a recount of that year's conservation bond, petitioners were grabbing random Pentacrest passers-by.  So it was clear at least a month ago, when campus calmed down for finals, that nothing was happening, and today's deadline is just a formality.

A successful petition drive would have forced an August 1 special election like the one Linn County will have. Linn County voters will see three choices:
  • An at large system, like Johnson County now has
  • A system where supervisors must live in a district, and only voters in the district vote on the seat. This is the system Linn County voted for in 2007 that took effect with the 2008 election.
  • A modified district system where supervisors must live in a district, but the entire county votes on every seat.
Last year, Linn County voters elected to reduce the number of supervisors from five to three. That would have required a new map with three districts instead of five - which may still happen. But that's now on hold till after the election, since voters may choose the at-large plan instead.

The politics in Linn County seem to have changed; many of the people who advocated for five supervisors from districts in 2007-08 were advocating for three supervisors last year (pay raises seemed to be the issue), and seem to favor at-large representation now.

In addition to now a third separate vote to re-arrange the Linn County Board of Supervisors, the city of Cedar Rapids voted in 2005 to change its form of government from one of the last commissioner systems in the nation to a part time mayor-council system.

As for Johnson County, the push for districts seems to have peaked a few years ago and centered around a perceived "lack of rural representation." Beginning in 2009, we've had three Board members living within about a mile of each other on the east side of Iowa City: current members Janelle Rettig and Rod Sullivan, along with first Terrence Neuzil (who moved to the west side and then resigned for a job out of state), and now Mike Carberry. They're presently joined on the Board by Lisa Green-Douglass of rural North Liberty and Kurt Friese of rural Iowa City. All are Democrats, which almost - almost - goes without saying.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors was long dominated by moderate to conservative rural Democrats, nominated in relatively low turnout June primaries (while the students are out of town) and elected with token or no opposition in partisan general elections. While they weren't all the traditional farm boys, as recently as 2000 all five supervisors were rural, even though nearly 60% of the county population lives in Iowa City proper. So rural voters frustrated by "under" representation may, in fact, have been upset about losing the historic OVER-representation they had.

District advocates may also have been looking to Linn County. The 2011 five district map created a rural "donut" district (with one bite taken out near the airport) that encompasses almost all of Linn County outside the Cedar Rapids-Marion urban area.

This time, if Linn County chooses districts, they're dividing by three, not by five. Redistricting law requires cities to be divided into as few districts as possible.That means Cedar Rapids, with almost exactly 60% of the population, will be split into two, with some small rural fragments or maybe Hiawatha or Robins added on (I haven't done the math in that much detail) to pad the population to a third of the county each. The third district will be dominated by Marion and will include most of the outlying parts of the county.

Johnson County's census math is different, and in our case districts may be the most certain way to assure no rural supervisors at all. According to a 2013 in-depth analysis of census data by redistricting consultant Jerry Mandering,  a Johnson County district system would produce three districts dominated by Iowa City, one district dominated by Coralville, and a final district that's more than half in North Liberty. 

Back to that "almost*", the case for districts in Johnson County was also partisan, as we had not elected a Republican supervisor in over 50 years. That argument was undercut during the middle of the 2013 district petition drive by John Etheredge's upset win in a low turnout special election. It proved a Republican, and a rural one at that, CAN win county-wide, under exactly the right circumstances. However, Etheredge lost to Rettig and Carberry in the high turnout, highly partisan 2014 general election, where we were the number one Braley county and the only county Jack Hatch won.

In the alternate universe where a petition plan was dropped on Johnson County today and a district plan won on August 1, Sullivan, Green-Douglass, and Friese would have had the four year terms they won last year cut short. Districts would have been drawn and all five supervisors would have been on the ballot next year. Also, depending on the specifics of the plan and the details of the map, someone may have been forced to choose between moving, stepping down, or duking it out in the primary..

Instead, the three supervisors elected last year stay on until 2020. The two elected in 2014, Rettig and Carberry, both seem likely to seek re-election next year; Carberry briefly looked at running for governor but decided not to jump in. Pat Heiden, who lost narrowly to Friese for the third and final ticket through the 2016 primary, also looks likely to run again.

There was, briefly, another effort at supervisor districts this year - in the legislative session. A proposed bill would have forced all counties over 130,000 population - suspiciously, that number is set just under Johnson County's 2010 Census total - to adopt the plan where supervisors must live in a district, and only voters in the district vote on the seat. But that bill went nowhere.