July 3, 2015

Sanders says he has a ‘strong chance of winning Iowa’


Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spent the first half of this Friday campaigning in Republican-leaning northwest Iowa. A crowd of over 200 greeted him for an early morning event in Sheldon and about 150 people crowded into the Better Day Cafe in Storm Lake to see Sanders over the noon-hour.

“The reason that we’re going around the state and into small towns is we understand the Caucus process and the votes here are as important as they are in Des Moines,” Sanders told reporters after his appearance in Storm Lake. “So we think we are putting together a strong infrastructure which is going to give us a strong chance of winning Iowa.”

A recent Quinnipiac University Poll found Sanders’ support in Iowa has more than doubled since May, to 33 percent of the likely Iowa Caucus-goers surveyed. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, a Vermont senator and the longest-serving independent in congress, said late last year he would not run for the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidetial nomination unless he sensed a “grassroots revolution” — and Sanders declared as he was leaving Storm Lake that it’s happening.

“People are resonating to the message, that there’s something fundamentally wrong with economics and politics in America,” Sanders told reporters.

Brian Gerjets of Cherokee, a truck driver who is co-chair of Cherokee Democratic Party, saw Sanders in Sheldon and Storm Lake. He said Sanders is delivering a “common sense” message.

“Wake up people. Look around. Everything he’s telling you is the truth,” Gerjets said. “The billionaires are running this world. Whether Bernie can take it all the way to the end, that’s questionable.”

Lynn McMullen and his wife, Paula, run an antiques and woodworking store in nearby Fonda and they’re going to vote for Sanders in the Caucuses.

“He’s right on the issues as far as getting rid of Citizens United for one and also for single payer health care,” Paula McMullen said.

Lynn McMullen added: “It’s boiled down to wealthy elements and corporate people just buying the government. It’s not a democracy any more and we need to turn that around or it’s all over.”

Sanders answered questions for 15 minutes after delivering a 50-minute speech in Storm Lake. He praised President Obama’s move this past week to change the rules for overtime pay and repeated his call for 12-weeks of paid family and medical leave, as well as mandatory vacation for working Americans.

“Eighty-five percent of working men, 66 percent of working women are working longer than 40 hours a week,” Sanders said. “At the very least, we have got to guarantee that those workers have two weeks of paid family vacation.”

Two other presidential candidates are campaigning in the state today. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, stopped at the site of a wind turbine this morning in Ankeny to highlight his ideas for boosting renewable energy. This afternoon, Louisiana Bobby Jindal, a Republican, is touring a fire arms manufacturer in Sheldon then stopping in Spencer.

(Photo by Asya Akca)

Iowa poultry industry boss fears budget cuts will hurt bird flu fight

ChickensThe leader of the Iowa Poultry Association says he’s keeping close tabs on federal lawmakers as they threaten spending cuts to the USDA. One proposal being considered would cut a half-billion dollars, which could include funding for fighting avian influenza.

Association executive director Randy Olson says he hopes Congress will provide the needed help to continue battling bird flu in Iowa and elsewhere.

“There’ll be a lot of discussion and posturing about budgets at the federal level, as there always is,” Olson says. “We certainly hope that the federal government and state governments will stick by the task of moving forward with avian influenza cleanup and making sure these farmers can get back on their feet as soon as possible.”

Iowa is the nation’s number-one egg producer. At least 77 poultry operations in 18 Iowa counties have had to euthanize entire flocks due to outbreaks. More than 31-million birds were destroyed.

Olson says Iowa’s congressional delegation and Governor Branstad have been very supportive of the state’s poultry industry in dealing with bird flu.

“There’s no question that everybody realizes the severity of this crisis in poultry and egg communities,” Olson says. “We’re hopeful we’ll be able to get through this challenging time as quickly as possible.”

Iowa officials are waiting on the feds after Governor Branstad requested a disaster declaration in four particularly hard hit counties due to the highly-pathogenic avian influenza.

By Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton


Rand Paul appeals to the ‘Leave Me Alone’ coalition

DSC_0517Over 100 people gathered to greet Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul at the “official” opening of his Iowa campaign headquarters Thursday evening.

“Is anybody here from the ‘Leave Me Alone’ coalition?” Paul said as he started a 20-minute speech to the crowd. Paul got cheers and applause in response. “Your right to be left alone is one of your most precious rights.”

And Paul argued he’s the Republican candidate with the best appeal to younger Americans who are upset with the government’s mass collection of phone data.

“Our phone records are none of their business,” Paul said, to applause.

Paul said privacy rights are important to the so-called “liberty movement” activists who voted for his father, Ron Paul, in previous presidential races and who helped carry Rand Paul to victory in Kentucky in 2010 and vault him into the top tier of 2016 presidential candidates.

“We combine both being for principles, being for ideas, being for new ideas and winability,” Paul said. “…It’s because of your help. It’s because of this liberty movement that’s spreading throughout the country and I want to thank you for your help in this mission.”

Paul posed for pictures with many in the crowd before he spoke. Geno Carver of Des Moines likes Paul’s Libertarian views.

“You’ll never find a perfect political candidate, but I think he’s as close as I’ve found so far,” Carver said.

John McClain of Des Moines was the first in line for a handshake and a photo with Paul and, while he likes some of Paul’s views, McClain is not ready to commit.

“I’m still undecided. It’s too early,” McClain said. “Walker hasn’t announced. Kasich hasn’t announced.”

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plans to formally enter the race on July 13th. And Ohio Governor John Kasich hasn’t revealed when his official campaign start date may be.

(Photo by Asya Arca)

Branstad axes extra money for K-12 public schools, three state universities

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad has been hinting for weeks that he was unhappy with the legislature’s bipartisan compromise on education funding — and late this afternoon the governor used his item veto authority to reject nearly $56 million in proposed funding for K-12 public schools.

Branstad points to $3 billion in state aide that he did approve for public school districts, but the governor says he cannot approve a one-time allotment of $56 million more. This past Monday Branstad told reporters that kind of one-time spending could “set the state up” for an across-the-board budget cut if state tax revenues fall.

“I want to maintain stability and predictability,” Branstad said. “And I want to make sure that we have a sustainable budget for the long term.”

The president of the state teachers union says the extra money would have been “a small degree of relief” for some school districts and Branstad’s decision to cut that money out of the legislature’s budget plan shows “his lack of commitment to public education.” A top Democrat in the Iowa Senate says the governor’s move not only “undermines” the bipartisan deal legislators struck, it jeopardizes a proposed tuition freeze at the three state universities. Branstad rejected one-time spending increases for the University of Iowa, Iowa State Universty and the University of Northern Iowa.

The chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee says there’s “no reason” for the governor to cut so deeply since there’s been strong growth in state tax revenue. The state collected more than $8 billion in taxes in the last 12 months.

In other official action Thursday, Branstad followed through and formally rejected the bipartisan proposal that called for keeping the state-run Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant open. The two facilities actually were closed for good earlier this week.

In addition to approving 14 budget bills that outline state spending plans for the next 12 months, there were a host of policy items stuck in the bills Branstad took action on today. For instance, non-public schools in Iowa are now required by state law to abide by the same school start date approved for public schools. The school start date debate raged until earlier this spring when legislators and the governor agreed that August 23 is the earliest day school may start in the fall.

Due to another policy item stuck in a budget bill, developers of a new reservoir near Osceola will have to prove they’ve exhausted all other options before they may seize property through eminent domain for the project. Backers of the project say they first started talking about Osceola’s limited water supply in 1992 and the area can’t grow economically without more water. Legislators who pushed for the new hurdles for  the project say they doubt developers’ claims that a current lake in Osceola couldn’t be expanded instead.

Loebsack says some in GOP ‘hyperventilating’ over same-sex marriage ruling

Congressman Dave Loebsack (right) with Dean Borg.

Congressman Dave Loebsack (right) with Dean Borg.

Congressman Dave Loebsack — the only Democrat in Iowa’s congressional delegation — says last week’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act means “ObamaCare” is “here to stay” and the court’s decision on same-sex marriage was “a great victory for equal rights.”

“Upwards of 60 percent of the American people think that that was the right decision,” Loebsack says.

Many of the Republican presidential candidates who’ve traveled through Iowa in the past few days have criticized the decision. Some have advocated for nationwide judicial retentions elections for members of the Supreme Court, as a means to ending life-time appointments to the court. A few have called for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would ban same-sex marriage. Loebsack says that’s just “hyperventilation.”

“The American people have decided already that same-sex marriage is accectable…and they are for it,” Loebsack says. “Now look, if folks on the Republican side of the aisle, whether it’s at the congressional level or those running for president, if they want to continue down this road they are not going to find a lot of support for the kinds of things they’ve been talking about.”

Loebdsack says the Constitution’s First Amendment already protects religious insitutions that refuse to marry a same-sex couple, but he is “open” to considering proposals from Republicans that might offer additional legal protections to churches, synagogues and mosques.

“To protect religious institutions, I can understand that, but to call it tyranny and use the kinds of language they’ve used before — this is the kind of language that Americans are tired of,” Loebsack says.

Loebsack made his comments this afternoon during taping of the “Iowa Press” program that will air on Iowa Public Television Friday night.

Religious leaders want presidential candidates to back Pope on climate change

Religious leaders are asking Iowans to ask presidential candidates their views on climate change.

Catholic and other religious leaders want Iowans to ask presidential candidates their views on climate change.

Catholic leaders were joined by those from other faiths today to urge Iowans to embrace Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment and ask presidential candidates to take a stand on climate change.

Father David Flemming read from a statement by Bishop Richard Pates of the Des Moines Diocese who is recovering from throat surgery.

“I invite all Catholics in Iowa to talk with their local, state and national leaders, urging them to exercise leadership in protecting the earth. We will have presidential candidates visiting our state regularly in the coming months. We have a unique opportunity to keep climate change on the front burner,” Flemming says.

The statement urges Catholics and those of other faiths to make climate change an issue for the presidential candidates.

Bishop Richard Pates

Bishop Richard Pates

“Ask not if, but how they plan to work toward solutions to climate change,” he says. “I also urge Iowans to conserve energy. Use energy efficient appliances, and invest in renewable energy systems.”

The group was asked about the Pope’s call for “profound political courage” on the climate change issue. Father Bud Grant, a professor of theology at St. Ambrose University, answered. “These are going to be difficult decisions that have to be made and they are not necessarily going to be popular. They are not necessarily going to help a person to get elected,” Grant says. “But they’re fundamental, they’re essential, they’re vital. So that’s how I would interpret that, politicians have to have the courage to do the right thing, and not necessarily the politically expedient.”

The associate director of the Catholic Climate Covenant in Washington, Lonnie Ellis, was on hand and asked about where climate change ranks as an issue right now with the presidential candidates. “We’re still not hearing much about what Pope Francis says is one the principle challenges facing humanity and we are still not hearing much about it from any of the candidate. So, I think that’s pretty low right now in terms of them getting out and speaking about this issue,” Ellis says.

He says that is the task ahead for all faiths in Iowa. “We’ve got to get this much more on their radar. This is a moral issue for all of us to consider. And it affects all of us right now and all of our children,” according to Ellis.

DMACC president Rob Denson listens to Father Bud Grant.

DMACC president Rob Denson listens to Father Bud Grant.

There are more Republican candidates in the presidential race than Democrats at this point, and it is often thought that party takes a more conservative view on climate change. Father Grant says the Pope’s call for action goes beyond any party.

“One of the things that theologians like to do is count words. “The Pope uses the words Democrat and Republican exactly zero times in the encyclical,” Grant says. “And when he talks about politics — you should understand — that word means government. It doesn’t really mean politics in that sort of partisan sense.”

Grant says the one word the Pope stresses is partnership. “I think a 170 times, it’s the most used word in the encyclical other than the words that have to do with God, religion and the earth. He wants us to build relationships with the earth and with one another. Fundamentally this is about all human beings, he addresses this encyclical to ‘every person on earth.’ So it’s not about political debate. He thinks we need to do what Lonnie just said, buckle down and get to work,” Grant says.

The religious leaders held their news conference in front of a windmill on the Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny, and also talked about the importance of renewable energy to the state.




Clinton 52 percent, ‘surging’ Sanders 33 percent in latest poll in Iowa

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. (file photo)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. (file photo)

A new poll shows Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders “gaining ground” in Iowa, securing the support of about a third of the Democrats who intend to go to the 2016 Iowa Caucuses. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton got the support of 52 percent of those polled and Sanders got 33 percent.

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remains ahead among Iowa Democrats, there’s no surprise there,” says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll,” but her margin over her major challenger at this point on the Democratic side, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has shrunk fairly dramatically.”

Sanders has more than doubled his standing in Iowa compared to the last Quinnipiac Poll conducted here in May.

“Obviously he is the surging candidate. The data indicates that Democrats who describe themselves as more liberal are more likely to favor Mr. Sanders than they are Secretary Clinton,” Brown says. “It’s not that Secretary Clinton needs to start biting her fingernails. It’s not that close at this point, but we’re seven or eight months away from the Caucus and Senator Sanders is within hailing distance of Secretary Clinton and that’s a surprise to some people.”

Sanders got five percent support in the Quinnipiac Poll conducted here in January. Sanders has visited the state often in the past six months, attracting large crowds in large and small cities.

“Senator Sanders has struck a chord with Democratic progressives who are perhaps somewhat disillusioned with Secretary Clinton,” Brown says.

But while national polls have shown Clinton’s favorability rating is declining, 77 percent of Iowa Democrats still view Clinton as honest and trustworthy and 85 percent view her positively according to the Quinnipiac Poll.

“She gets strong scores on leadership and understanding the problems of every day voters,” Brown says.

Vice President Joe Biden got seven percent support in the latest Quinnipiac Poll of likely Democratic Caucus goers. Biden has said he’ll decide by the end of the summer if he’ll run for the Democratic Party’s next presidential nomination. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley formally entered the race last month and is campaigning in Iowa today (Thursday). He registered at three percent. Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is expected to jump into this race this month. He had one percent.

Five percent of the Iowa Democrats surveyed said they were undecided.