September 3, 2015

Sanders is ‘very gratified’ by ‘momentum’ behind his campaign


Bernie Sanders takes questions from reporters after the “Iowa Press” show taping today.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders this morning said even he has been surprised by the “momentum” behind his campaign and his dramatic rise in the polls. A recent Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register “Iowa Poll” found Sanders is the first choice of 30 percent of likely Iowa Democratic Party Caucus goers, just seven percentage points behind Hillary Clinton.

“We are feeling very good about the campaign. We’re feeling good about what’s happening here in Iowa,” Sanders said during a news conference in Johnston, Iowa. “When I began this campaign all of four months ago I think it’s fair to say that 80-90 percent of the American people did not know who Bernie Sanders was or what he stood for, the ideas that he was advancing. I think we’ve come a really long way.”

Sanders told reporters he’s “very gratified” by the crowds he’s attracting at campaign events here and elsewhere.

“We also understand that people coming out to a meeting or to a rally is not necessarily converted into votes,” Sanders said. “So what we’re doing right here in Iowa, we have put together dozens of folks. On the ground, right now, our people are out, knocking on doors, talking one-one-one.”

Vice President Joe Biden is considering a run for the White House in 2016 himself, but Biden is reportedly telling supporters he’d seek just one term as president, because of his age. Biden is about a year younger than Sanders, who will turn 74 on Tuesday.  During taping of the IPTV program “Iowa Press” earlier this morning, Sanders said he is “blessed with good health” and he isn’t making that kind of a pledge.

“I cannot remember the last day that I missed work because I was sick, thank God, so I think I am healthy. If we win the first term and it goes well, we’ll take a look a tthe second term,” Sanders said. “It’s a little bit too early to speculate on that.”

Sanders will hold town hall meetings in Grinnell this afternoon and in Burlington this evening, with a stop in Ottumwa between those two events for a campaign office opening in south central Iowa. Sanders said during the “Iowa Press” taping that he finds that Iowa Caucuses “unique”.

“You demand a lot more of people than do people in the primary states. You demand people to know my views, know Hillary Clinton’s views, know Trump’s views and actually go to a meeting and argue about these things,” Sanders said. “And I love that stuff.”

Sanders appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program will air Friday at 7:30 p.m. and be rebroadcast Sunday at noon.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Governor Branstad won’t appeal telemed abortion ruling

Governor Branstad. (file photo)

Governor Branstad. (file photo)

Iowa’s governor does not plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Iowa Supreme Court ruling on so-called “telemed” abortions.

“I was very disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision, siding with Planned Parenthood,” Branstad says. “But unfortunately it does not look like something that is likely to be overturned on appeal.”

The Iowa Supreme Court in July rejected an Iowa Board of Medicine rule requiring doctors to see abortion patients in person when prescribing medication to terminate a pregnancy.

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland has been using remote video technology to prescribe abortion-inducing prescriptions to patients. The unanimous decision by six Iowa Supreme Court justices said forbidding the use of tele-medicine in such cases placed an “undue burden” on women seeking abortions because women in rural areas must drive hundreds of miles to reach one of the three Planned Parenthood clinics where they could see a doctor in person.

The Iowa Board of Medicine has decided not to appeal the ruling. Governor Branstad is the only other person who would have standing to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “The chance of getting the Supreme Court to take it up is very unlikely,” Branstad says. “And even if they did, they could send it back to the Iowa Supreme Court.”

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland began offering telemedicine abortions in 2008 and the Iowa Board of Medicine’s restriction never went into effect because the rule was being challenged in court.


Democrats offer satellite locations for caucus particants

Andy McGuire (file photo)

Andy McGuire (file photo)

The Iowa Democratic Party is now accepting applications for “satellite” locations for the Iowa Democratic Party’s Caucuses on February 1, 2016.

“This is new,” says Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman Andy McGuire, “and we’re trying to take steps to be more inclusive.”

These satellite locations will be in addition to the precinct level meetings Democrats will hold throughout the state.

These satellite “mini” caucuses are for Iowans who face some sort of hardship and cannot get to the precinct location for that evening’s party meeting. McGuire said the Democratic Party’s central committee will review the applications and grant those where a “sizeable number” of Democrats demonstrate a clear need for a “satellite” caucus location.

“Let’s say there’s 20 people who some are in walkers, some are in wheelchairs from a senior living facility on a February 1 night,” McGuire said. “That would make me think that’s a reasonable number.”

McGuire also expects workers in some Iowa businesses to ask for a “satellite” caucus location in their workplace because they don’t get enough time off during their shift to leave, participate in a precinct caucus and then get back to work.

“A break room might be a place where you can have that caucus,” she said.

Forms are now posted on the Iowa Democratic Party’s website for those who want to ask for a “satellite” caucus location.

To participants in previous Iowa Caucuses, Iowa Democrats and Republicans have had to attend a precinct meeting at sites designated by each party. The Republican Party of Iowa is not taking the same step Democrats are in offering satellite locations for participating in the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. The Caucuses are scheduled to start at 7 p.m. on February 1. Democrats at traditional precincts and at these “satellite” locations will all start the process of delegate selection at 7 p.m. that evening.

Democrats also plan to offer a new “tele-caucus” process for Iowa solders on active duty and Iowans who are living abroad. Details about how Democrats can qualify and participate in that electronic caucus will released in a few weeks.

New USS Iowa submarine price tag to top $1 billion

Battleship USS Iowa. (Navy photo)

Battleship USS Iowa. (Navy photo)

The Secretary of the U.S. Navy is in Iowa today to commemorate the naming of a new submarine. Governor Terry Branstad said the new USS Iowa will cost more than a billion dollars to build, with a target date for its first voyage sometime after 2020.

“We don’t have a naval base in Iowa,” Branstad said during a Radio Iowa interview. “Obviously, we’re not a sea coast area, but we do have Naval ROTC at Iowa State University.”

U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus will be on the ISU campus in Ames at three o’clock this afternoon to reveal more details about the new sub.

“The public is welcome. We’re excited to have a new ship named after the State of Iowa,” Branstad said. “We’ve had a history of these.”

This is the fourth vessel in the U.S. Navy fleet to be named after the State of Iowa.

“The latest one, the battleship USS Iowa, is now a museum in Los Angeles Harb9r,” Branstad said.

Battleship, USS Iowa.

Battleship, USS Iowa.

Three Navy battleships have been named the USS Iowa. One of them was used during World War II and the Korean War. After it was reactivated in the 1980s, there was an explosion on board and the ship was mothballed until its recent relocation and restoration as a floating museum.

The very first USS Iowa saw action during the Spanish-American War. The State of Iowa raised five-thousand dollars to buy a silver service for that ship in the 1890s and Branstad expects that coffee and tea set will be placed in the new USS Iowa submarine.

“The history has been that the silver service, when the USS Iowa is decommissioned, comes back to the state, but now I’m sure the Navy will want it back to put it on the submarine,” Branstad said. “We had a little incident. After the USS Iowa was decommissioned the last time, they put it on the USS Abraham Lincoln and so I had to contact the Navy and say, ‘Wait a minute. Since the USS Iowa is decommissioned, we want it back.'”

USS Iowa model at the state capitol.

USS Iowa model at the state capitol.

There is also a scale model of the latest USS Iowa battleship in the statehouse rotunda and the state leases it every year. If the Navy makes a scale model of this new submarine, Branstad hopes to get it displayed in the statehouse, too.

The USS Iowa submarine will weigh 7800 tons and be 377 feet long. It will be able to operate at 25 knots when it’s underwater.

“It’s going to be a big submarine and it’s going to be able to move pretty fast and have great capabilities,” Branstad said. “They say it will be able to attack targets ashore with highly-accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles in addition to the other things that it can do.”

Branstad doesn’t know who may be asked to christen the submarine once it’s done.

The USS Sioux City is part of a new class of Navy ships designed to operate closer to shore and it should be finished in December. The price tag for the USS Sioux City is over three-quarters of a billion dollars.

Police make arrest in murder, assault of Dubuque woman

Helmon Betwell

Helmon Betwell

A 19-year-old from Dubuque has been charged with first degree murder for causing the death of a woman found beaten and lying on the ground outside a Dubuque apartment building early Tuesday morning.

The adult woman was alive when police arrived on the scene just before 6 a.m. Tuesday, but she died later at a Dubuque hospital. Dubuque police say the woman had been sexually abused and authorities say Helmon Betwell admits he assaulted her. He’s been charged with first degree sexual assault and two counts of third degree burglary as well as first degree murder.

The name and age of the victim has not been released.

Santorum to complete his 99-county tour of Iowa today


Rick Santorum at a panel discussion in Newton.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum will visit Adams County in southwest Iowa early this morning and Lyon County in northwest Iowa this evening — completing his quest to visit each of Iowa’s 99 counties this year.

“We’re going out there and we’re laying the groundwork,” Santorum said Monday after a campaign event in Newton. “…One of the things I learned four years ago is that Iowans like to see you and touch you…and when they get a chance to meet you, we get people signed up and they speak for us at the Caucuses.”

Santorum completed a 99 county tour of the state in November of 2011. Santorum, who won the 2012 Iowa Caucuses, said while critics may dismiss the 99-county odessey as “crazy”, he knew he had to do it again.

“You take three years off from politics, which I did, you know, you’ve got to reintroduce yourself again and I knew if I got into this race I’d be starting from the back of the pack again because…I haven’t been in the senate, I haven’t been traveling the country doing politics and endorsing candidates and spreading money everywhere,” Santorum said. “…I knew it would be a hard road again, but I trusted the people of Iowa four years ago. I’ll trust them again this time.”

Santorum isn’t the only GOP candidate who’s promised to visit each one of Iowa’s 99 counties this year. Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee and Bobby Jindal are on the statewide circuit, too. Santorum said after meeting face-to-face with small groups of Iowans, he’s been able to get committed supporters who won’t defect from his campaign.

“You develop some real connection with people that are not going to be changed by the next ad that comes on,” Santorum said, “or the next person who happens to be the next ‘star of the moment’ comes to the top of the pack.”

Santorum spoke with reporters Monday afternoon in Newton, after he held an hour-long discussion about the economy with a couple of businessmen, an educator and the local hospital’s CEO.

“Unlike a lot of campaigns that are going out there trying to figure out how you can separate yourself out and create your own little wedge issues, I’ve really worked on trying a campaign that says: ‘Are there some issues…that actually will unite us…so when we get to Washington, D.C. we can actually get something done?” Santorum asked as he opened the discussion.

Santorum suggests getting rid of all tax loopholes and simply charging a flat 20 percent income tax rate on corporations and individuals — which Republicans support — and also raising the minimum wage — which Democrats support. It’s a deal that would get bipartisan support in congress, according to Santorum.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Branstad will meet with ‘old friend’ Xi Jinping in Seattle in September


Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds at the news conference this morning.

Iowa’s governor says he disagrees with Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker’s call for canceling the state dinner at the White House for China’s president that’s planned for late September. Governor Terry Branstad says he doesn’t get involved in foreign policy.

“I understand there are some issues right now with China with what’s happened with the devaluation of the currency, some of the issues with cyber security and whatever,” Branstad says. “But as you know the state of Iowa has had a long-standing friendship with our sister state Hebei and with Xi Jinping and I’m proud that he calls me an old friend.”

China’s president first visited Iowa in 1985 when he was a low-level agricultural official in a Chinese province. Branstad threw a state dinner for Xi at the state capitol in Des Moines in February of 2012, just before Xi became China’s president. Branstad has met face-to-face with Xi five times. That includes a trade trip to China in 2013 that included Walker, who is Wisconsin’s governor. Walker has said President Obama should not honor China’s president with a state dinner when he visits the U.S. this fall because the Chinese government was behind a cyber attack on the U.S. government. Branstad, meanwhile, plans to fly to Seattle to see Xi during his trip to the U.S.

“Would have preferred to have that in Iowa,” Branstad told reporters this morning, with a laugh, “but we got that last time and so I guess we can’t have it every time.”

Branstad said he “respects” the fact Walker is now looking at foreign policy issues with China now that Walker’s running for president. Branstad says when he meets with China’s president he’ll encourage China to import more Iowa-grown soybeans and Iowa-raised pork.

(Photo by Asya Akca)