Mark Smith Won’t Seek Reelection As House Dem Leader

Representative Mark Smith will not seek another term as House Minority Leader, Starting Line has learned from multiple Democratic sources. He announced his decision yesterday in an email to fellow Democratic House members. It’s an unexpected changing of the guard after Democrats picked up a net gain of five or six seats on Tuesday, one of the state party’s bright spots from the evening. Final ballots or a recount may yet determine the outcome of Decorah’s HD 55. Smith has faced challenges from within his caucus in past years, but House Democrats’ wins this cycle were generally seen as a […]

Smear Campaign Backfires On Anna Bergman

The House District 44 candidate forum on October 11th between candidates Democrat Kenan Judge and Republican Anna Bergman was a policy-based discussion that was civil and informative. Before the forum, the Bergman and Judge campaigns talked policy. But the second the forum was over, Anna Bergman posted an attack ad against her opponent on social media and broadcast TV. There would be no chance to confront Anna Bergman on the allegations in person with no events left before the election. It was a dishonest style of gutter politics that, at best, only makes folks angry on all sides of issues. […]

Last-Minute Spending Shifts In Battleground Legislative Races

The final finance reports for Iowa races were released on Friday, and spending from both parties point to a changing battleground map for control of the Iowa Statehouse. Democrats are now targeting several extra suburban races that were not on the targeted list before, while Republicans are dumping money into some of their incumbent seats that were previously regarded as safe holds. Let’s go through those spending numbers to see which have been the most expensive races in the state and where things moved around in the final weeks. To do that, I’m just going to focus on the “in-kind” […]

Meet The 29-Year-Old Farm Girl Who Could Flip The Iowa House

As Democrats look to rebound in Iowa in 2018, one of their toughest tasks is winning back the rural voters that abandoned them for Donald Trump two years ago. Taking back the Iowa Legislature all but requires it, as several key swing districts are mostly rural. To accomplish that on the local level, the party needed legislative candidates that came off as small-town authentic and knowledgable about agriculture. Kayla Koether, the Democratic nominee in the Decorah-based House District 55, has all those attributes and more, and is running one of the more interesting campaigns in the state at age 29. […]

Why Local Iowa Democratic Campaign Ads Look So Good This Year

When you’re a candidate running for the state legislature in Iowa, your campaign budget is always tight. There’s only so many places you can raise money from, the districts are relatively small and your official campaign team may mostly be volunteers. If you’re a “targeted” race, you get more help from the state party, but they also have a lot of districts to cover. Fortunately for two dozen Democratic candidates in Iowa this year, a unique national organization helped them even the playing field with their better-funded Republican opponents. The One Vote At A Time organization came to Iowa back […]

Julian Garrett Confirms He’d Make 14-Year-Old Rape Victims Carry Pregnancy

State Senator Julian Garrett doubled down on the most extreme consequences of an abortion bill he voted for last year during a forum in Indianola on Monday night. Answering a question from his Democratic challenger Vicky Brenner, Garrett confirmed he supports a scenario in which a 14-year-old girl who was raped by a family member would have to bring her pregnancy to term. “According to this law, a 14-year-old student of mine could be raped by her uncle and be required to carry that pregnancy to term,” Brenner, a retired teacher, said to Garrett. “I can see that young woman […]

Iowa Sees Largest Drop In Energy Rating After Gary Carlson’s Bill

Iowa’s national role as a leader in clean energy took a major hit thanks to a Republican-passed bill (SF 2311) in 2018. State Representative Gary Carlson spearheaded the effort, and Governor Reynolds signed it into law this past May. The bill cripples Iowa’s 28-year history of energy efficiency programs with massive cuts. It also allows municipal utilities to penalize solar-generating customers. The new law cuts funds dedicated to rebates for energy efficiency appliances, retrofitting homes and energy efficiency initiatives by as much as two-thirds. The bill caps contributions at 2 percent of a customer’s electric or natural gas bill. The […]

Jack Whitver Is In Trouble

Republicans may yet lose two senate majority leaders in the same year. That’s seems to be the goal of the Senate Democrats as the party launched a massive ad blitz today to take down Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver in his Ankeny district. Amber Gustafson, a gun safety leader and community volunteer, debuted her first TV ad with a significant amount of funds behind it. Data in the public record shows her spending a combined $113,030 on KCCI and WHO-TV, accounting for 279 spots, for the final three weeks of the campaign. That will keep first-time candidate Gustafson competing nearly neck-and-neck […]

Rick Bertrand Denounced Bill Dix, But Bertrand Was Part Of The Problem

Sioux City Senator Rick Bertrand talked a big game in criticizing former Majority Leader Bill Dix’s handling of sexual harassment in the Iowa Senate, but it turns out Bertrand was part of the problem. That’s what was revealed in yesterday’s in-depth Des Moines Register article about the culture of sexual harassment at the Capitol. The investigation unearthed new details about Bertrand’s personal behavior in the Senate, most notably that he made a sexual overture about the top Republican staffer’s wife. “He one night said it was bath night at his apartment, was it okay if he invited my wife?” Ed […]

Look Out: Data Shows Democrats Eager To Vote In Key Swing Districts

Iowans have started voting as we head into the final weeks of the 2018 election, and campaign staff and volunteer work is paying off in many important legislative swing districts. A look at the early vote data shows high percentages of registered Democrats requesting absentee ballots in a host of top-targeted battleground seats. Interestingly, the top areas in the state for Democratic absentee requests are a mix of urban, suburban, blue collar and rural regions. The only common denominator is the important local races. Let’s take a look at the Secretary of State’s early vote data that was put out […]