The Peculiar, Surprisingly Effective Campaign Of Joe Sestak

Retired admiral Joe Sestak’s presidential campaign announcement was noticed almost by accident. Explaining his entrance into the crowded field in a June 23 video on a campaign website few knew existed, word of the then-24th Democratic candidate slowly spread through political journalist Twitter. No major profile pieces, media roll-outs or cable news tours accompanied it. Sestak had arrived in Iowa the day before, telling only a handful of former campaign and congressional aides three days ahead of time about his plans. He worked with an old acquaintance from Iowa to build his presidential website. Unbeknownst to any media, Sestak’s first […]

Burlington’s Planned Parenthood Closure Brought Anger, But Also Activism

Shortly after becoming sexually active, Alexandra Rucinski got pregnant. She was 22 years old and had only been taught about abstinence because of her conservative, Mormon upbringing. “There was no conversation other than abstinence, which didn’t protect me at all,” Rucinski said. Enter Planned Parenthood in downtown Burlington, Iowa. The clinic closed in 2017 after Republican lawmakers excluded Planned Parenthood from state funding, but it was there for Rucinski. Rucinski said she went to the clinic when she was about three months pregnant because she didn’t have health insurance at the time. She was pretty sure she was pregnant, but […]

How One Iowa Town Is Still Recovering From An ICE Raid

In his latest round of threats, President Donald Trump stoked fear in communities across the country earlier this month with talk of ramping up immigration raids nationwide. “Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States,” said Trump, June 17 on Twitter. “They will be removed as fast as they come in.” The President backed off his initial timeline in a tweet June 22, saying he would delay the mass deportations for two weeks, saying he wanted “to see if the Democrats and Republicans can get […]

Who Can Win Back Iowa’s Blue-Collar Counties?

Back during Elaine Baxter’s childhood, party loyalty was a simple matter. “When I was growing up, it would be unthinkable if you worked in a factory and were a Republican,” Baxter explained to Starting Line last week. “The two didn’t go together.” Now 86, Baxter, who served as Iowa’s Secretary of State from 1987 to 1995, has seen a sea change in her adopted hometown of Burlington, Iowa. Once a Democratic stronghold, the blue-collar Mississippi River town with a population of 25,000 became a key flip in Donald Trump’s 9-point win over Hillary Clinton in 2016. “People we know were […]

How The 2020 Candidates Are Staffing Up In Iowa

It’s Iowa Caucus season, which means all of the top political staffers in the country have begun their migration from D.C. and battleground campaigns out to the Hawkeye state. Presidential candidates have aggressively courted campaign operatives with Iowa ties for months, and most of the top talent has already been snatched up. Which Democratic contenders are putting together the largest operations? What networks are they pulling from? Who has the most people with key Iowa relationships? Starting Line has been tracking the staffing scene for a while now, and we have finally put together a comprehensive look at how it’s […]

They’re Not Running, But They Could Shape The 2020 Debate In Iowa

Iowa saw more than its fair share of Democratic presidential hopefuls come through the state these past two years – more than two dozen by my count. But not every Democrat with a national profile who traveled to Iowa had their eyes on a White House run. And while several notable names won’t be candidates in the wild, free-for-all Iowa Caucus in 2020, their vision, work and influence here could easily shape how the nomination process plays out. Rising stars in Congress like Ro Khanna and Pramila Jayapal could help form the debate over what it means to be a […]

On The Road With J.D. Scholten’s Campaign To Defeat Steve King

There’s few summer activities more quinesstential than a father/son road trip in an RV. Stopping at small town restaurants. Sleeping in a pull-down bed. Navigating through country roads. But one extra feature of J.D. Scholten and his father Jim’s tour around Iowa in their new RV is that J.D. is also running for Congress. As Scholten was entering the final months of Democrats’ three-way primary to take on Steve King, he faced a difficult problem: Iowa’s 4th Congressional District is a sprawling, 39-county swath of Western and Northern Iowa. Scholten leads the pack of Democrats vying for the nomination in […]

A Day In The Life Of A Nate Boulton Field Organizer

Later this evening, thousands of dedicated Iowa Democrats will trudge through the snow and the cold to attend their local precinct caucus. It’s expected to see the largest attendance ever for a non-presidential year caucus, but the stakes involved with the gubernatorial primary alone don’t ensure people turn out. Phone calls, meetings, trainings and door-knocking by campaign staff and volunteers – thousands of hours of work in all for every single campaign – get voters into those caucus rooms. That’s what Nate Boulton field organizer Adam Henderson was working on during a recent Friday when Starting Line shadowed him for […]

With Zach Wahls And More, Iowa Dems’ Future Is On The Ballot In 2018

Few elections have ever held more longterm consequences for a state than the upcoming 2018 races in Iowa. A few of the issues at stake: the survival of public unions and Planned Parenthood, the existence of mental healthcare services, and the state’s own political identity as a purple or red state. Iowa could soon become the next Kansas for decades to come, or a Democratic wave could return balance to the Statehouse. But for the Democratic Party here, 2018 presents one more opportunity that could outlive all of those outcomes: the chance to vote into office a raft of young […]

State Of The Race In Iowa’s 3rd District (October 2017)

Starting Line’s analysis of Iowa’ four congressional races continues today with the most intriguing primary of all: the Des Moines-based 3rd District. Four, possibly five Democrats have a real shot at winning the party’s nomination to take on incumbent Republican Congressman David Young. It’s also more likely than not that the nomination goes to a convention if no candidate gets to 35%, the amount required by Iowa law to avoid doing so. Young himself prevailed in a nominating convention in 2014 after coming in 5th place in the primary. Could the Democrat who finally defeats him come out of a […]