Can Democrats Ever Hope To Defeat Joni Ernst?

People love Joni Ernst. A lot happened at Ernst’s 2nd annual Roast and Ride this weekend, where Donald Trump headlined with an immigration-heavy speech. What stood out to me, however, was Ernst herself and how she gives off a sort of effortless charm at these events. She really has an unmatched charisma that no other Iowa politician can claim. Democrats in Iowa like to tell themselves that Ernst is a nutty, unserious extremist who will be a welcome target for defeat in 2020. They should spend some time around her. They’d find a much more complex and compelling politician than the […]

Meet Iowa Democrats’ All-Female Tickets

When voters go to the polls in the Northeast Iowa counties of Allamakee and Clayton this year, this is what they’ll see in the Democratic column of their ballot: President: Hillary Clinton U.S. Senate: Patty Judge Congress: Monica Vernon State Senate: Jan Heikes State House: Patti Ruff Voters in Marion and Dubuque will see similar all-female tickets from the Democrats. In Marion, Senator Liz Mathis and State House candidate Molly Donahue are on the ballot. In Dubuque, Senate President Pam Jochum and Representative Abby Finkenauer fill out the down-ballot slots. Those three districts make up a particularly historic ballot for […]

Voter Revolt Growing Over Iowa’s Mental Health Care Mess

Iowa families dealing with mental health issues have hit the breaking point. The closure of mental health institutions and the privatization of Medicaid have put increasingly unbearable strain on many seeking help. That frustration is quickly spilling over into the political realm. Around 500 people showed up to a loosely-organized mental health rally in downtown Des Moines this weekend. It was all organized on Facebook by two young men who faced serious mental health struggles themselves and were fed up with Iowa’s low rankings in health services, especially the state’s 50th rank for amount of mental health beds. None of […]

Why Western Iowa Keeps Voting For Steve King

After two straight weeks of Steve King racial controversies, much of the country is once again asking: how on earth does this man keep getting reelected? It’s an understandable conundrum about a Congressman who displays a Confederate flag on his desk, who repeatedly defended his belief that white Christians contributed more to civilization than any other “sub-group,” along with his many other past controversial statements. King has made a career out of outlandish and inflammatory rhetoric, often on racial topics. It’s diminished his role in his party in Congress and he’s come under criticism from fellow Republicans at times. And […]

Iowa Republicans: The Most Pro-Trump Party In The Country?

“We need to support Donald Trump and his choice for vice president because he will make America great again!” boomed Governor Terry Branstad at the Republican Party of Iowa’s state convention this May. “We have an opportunity once again to make America great again,” Senator Chuck Grassley said in a warm introduction of Trump in Pella way back in January, one of the first Republican U.S. Senators to stand with him on a stage. “If you vote for him, Donald Trump, as the Republican nominee, the Republican Party of Iowa and this Republican chair will be behind him one thousand […]

The Fiercest Iowa Primary Battle In 2016? This Newton House Seat

While most of the state is focused on the major Democratic primaries in the U.S. Senate race, 1st and 3rd Congressional, the most contentious intra-party battle is playing out in Newton. Three-term incumbent State Representative Dan Kelley faces a particularly strong primary challenge from fellow Democrat Wes Breckenridge, and very well could be the first incumbent to lose in 2016. The race has exploded with accusations, long-held grudges, ideological conflicts and county-level clique politics. It’s fueled huge turnout – House District 29 has the second-most Democratic absentee requests in the state. And letters-to-the-editor about the race have inundated the Newton Daily […]

A Day On The Trail With Rob Hogg

What good is an endorsement? That’s an open question in any political campaign. Some bring an army of volunteers, others bring only the single vote of the endorser. State Senator Rob Hogg has a lot of public endorsements in his quest for the Democrats’ nomination for U.S. Senate: AFSCME, the Iowa Federation of Labor, over 90 current and former legislators. One of them, former State Senator Daryl Beall, did his best this past Tuesday to deliver Webster County for his old friend. Hogg meets his former colleague from the legislature at Bloomers, a downtown Fort Dodge coffee shop. Beall has […]

A Day On The Trail With Patty Judge

Patty Judge was running a few minutes behind when she got her travel schedule last Thursday, full of meetings and event drop-bys in northern Iowa. She gathered with her campaign staff in her East Village office housed out of Jeff Link’s consulting firm. “I need a fast car and somebody to drive it,” Judge told her campaign manager when asked if there was anything else she needed for the road. The car they ended up taking was her own, a black Chrysler 300. The car has a nickname. She calls it “Dr. Dre.” When she and her husband bought it […]

A Day On The Trail With Pat Murphy

Iowa Starting Line will be doing a series of posts where we follow along a major primary candidate for most of a day as they campaign. We hope it gives a different, unique look into who the man or woman running for office is, beyond just their stump speeches and debate points. We followed Pat Murphy for a day the weekend before last: Pat Murphy began his Saturday early in the morning, serving up a hot meal to the needy at 7:30 AM at the Labor Harvest food shelter near downtown Dubuque. It’s a volunteer service he’s done for over […]

What The Governor’s Conference On LGBTQ Youth Is Really Like

Conservative Republicans’ attempts to investigate or restrict local funding for the Governor’s annual Conference on LGBTQ Youth seem to have largely backfired. Monday’s gathering in downtown Des Moines saw the largest attendance yet in its 11-year run, with over 1,100 students, parents and educators showing up. Few topics in Iowa have seen more political controversy in the last year than the conference that focuses largely on anti-bullying advice for LGBTQ youth led by the Iowa Safe Schools organization. Republicans at the statehouse tried to launch an investigation into the event, even asking local districts for information on who attended last year […]