Clay Masters

Morning Edition Host

Clay Masters joined the Iowa Public Radio newsroom as a statehouse and political correspondent in 2012 and started hosting IPR’s Morning Edition in 2014. Clay is an award-winning multi-media journalist whose radio stories have been heard on various NPR and American Public Media programs.

He was one of the founding reporters of Harvest Public Media, the regional journalism consortium covering agriculture and food production in the Midwest. He was based in Nebraska where he worked for Nebraska’s statewide public radio and television network. 

Clay continues to report on a wide variety of topics including politics, health and the environment. He’s also a regular music contributor to NPR’s arts desk.

Clay’s favorite NPR program is All Things Considered.

Ways to Connect

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, is still saying he will not hold confirmation hearings, now that President Obama has selected a Supreme Court nominee to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

Michael Leland / IPR

More bills have reached deadlines for continuing in the Iowa legislature. IPR’s Morning Edition Host Clay Masters got the latest from Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell on what to expect going into the week of March 14 at the statehouse.

John Pemble / IPR

Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters spoke with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell. Here’s what she told him:

1. Kids likely won’t be allowed to handle guns. Iowa got a lot of national attention for a bill in the Iowa House that would allow children, 14 and younger, to handle a gun under parental supervision. “I would say there’s virtually no way this would pass the senate,” IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell said. The gun bill that could pass both chambers is one to legalize gun suppressors.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Former Iowa Lt. Gov. Patty Judge is running for the U.S. Senate seat held since 1981 by Republican Chuck Grassley.  She becomes the fourth Democrat to enter the race.

Judge announced her candidacy with a news release this morning and a post on her Facebook page, calling herself, "the Judge Chuck Grassley can't ignore."  Grassley heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has said it would not hold a hearing for anyone President Obama nominated for the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy.

John Pemble / IPR

Lawmakers in the Iowa House and Senate have reached the first major deadline this legislative session. While many bills have fallen by the wayside, some major issues still loom.

Jared Wong / Flickr

The organization AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons, says 42 percent of Iowa’s private sector workers do not have an employer-sponsored retirement plan. State Senator Janet Petersen and Iowa’s State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald are working to change that. They’ve proposed a state-run plan for private employees, something more than 20 states are also considering. 

U.S. Supreme Court

Senator Chuck Grassley says it’s "standard practice" to hold off nominating and confirming a U-S Supreme Court Justice during a presidential election year. The Iowa Republican’s comments come following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday. There have been several nominations and confirmations of justices during election years.

John Pemble / IPR

As Iowa lawmakers dash to get bills out of committee in either the House or Senate, IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell has her eye on a few big questions this week: 

1. Can medical marijuana backers get a bill out of committee?

John Pemble / IPR

With the Iowa caucuses over and the general election months away, political watchers in Iowa turn their gaze to the capitol. The legislature is taking on many of the same characteristics of previous sessions. IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell laid out the following observations:

1. The Governor’s Agenda is modest and defining issues this session are hard to identify.

Amy Mayer / IPR


  After Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory in the Iowa Caucuses many are questioning the political importance of ethanol, an industry that has long held sway in the political scene of Iowa and much of the Midwest.

Iowa is the top-producer of ethanol, the corn-based fuel, in the country. With its status as the first state that gets a crack at the presidential contest, Iowa often brings renewable fuels into the political limelight.

Clay Masters/IPR

With less than a week until the Iowa caucuses, presidential candidates are descending on Iowa.

A trend has emerged among the Republican candidates.

A volunteer for the Donald Trump campaign is walking along a line of rally attendees at the West Gym on the campus of the University of Northern Iowa earlier this month. HE’s trying to get people to sign up to vote.

“Does anybody need to register or re-register to be a Republican?!” he asks.

Democratic presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton continued to spar last night in Des Moines. With the Iowa caucuses less than three weeks away, Clinton has been attacking Sanders for votes he made that she says shield gun makers and sellers. At the Iowa Brown and Black Forum last night, moderator Jorge Ramos pressed Sanders about it.

Clay Masters / IPR

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters caught up with him on the phone on January 8, 2016 while Rubio was campaigning in New Hampshire.

Clay Masters / IPR

Democratic presidential candidates are responding to President Obama’s op-ed in the New York Times. The president wrote he will not support any candidate – even in his own party – who does not support common-sense gun reform.

It started out as a place where musicians could take a break from the tedium of the road to record a few songs and post them online for fans.

Clay Masters/IPR file photo

Des Moines residents can expect their water bills to go up 10 percent in April. It comes as the state’s largest water utility is in the middle of a lawsuit with three northern Iowa counties.

Des Moines Water Works CEO Bill Stowe says the utility has removed more nitrates from the city’s water supply of the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers in the last year than any other.

One year ago Iowans and Nebraskans enrolled in the healthcare startup Co-Opportunity Health found out they were losing their healthcare coverage. There are 11 other of these so-called “co-ops” that were funded by the federal government that have failed. 

The Affordable Care Act had set aside funding for these so-called health co-ops.

They enabled organizations to compete in places where there weren’t many insurers.

A year ago, Iowans enrolled in the healthcare startup Co-Opportunity found out they were losing their healthcare coverage. Since then a dozen of these so-called “co-ops” that were funded by the federal government have failed.

Clay Masters / IPR

The Iowa caucuses are now 47 days away and many presidential candidates are descending on the state that kicks off presidential elections. Following last night’s Republican debate in Nevada, Marco Rubio held his first campaign stop in suburban Des Moines where he continued to go after fellow candidate and Senator Ted Cruz.

The debate last night was a chance for candidates to remind Americans Donald Trump is NOT the only candidate seeking the Republican nomination.

Some of the sharpest back-and-forth moments came from Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is stepping up his game in Iowa.

The first term Texas senator has picked up influential endorsements there and is drawing bigger crowds.

At the stage of the race when many caucus-goers are still deciding who to support in the first in the nation presidential caucus, Cruz is making a big play for Iowa evangelical voters, who helped Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012 win the Iowa Republican caucuses.

Clay Masters / IPR


Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is stepping up his game in Iowa. The Texas Senator has picked up influential endorsements there and is drawing bigger crowds. Many caucus-goers are still deciding who to support in this state that kicks off presidential elections. Cruz is making a big play for the much-coveted Iowa evangelical vote.


It was the first Sunday of advent at the Christian Life Assembly of God Church in Des Moines. Ted Cruz felt right at home.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Carly Fiorina is a former executive at Hewlett Packard and she’s seeking the Republican presidential nomination. We reached her Friday morning at a campaign stop in Council Bluffs. 

Note: The conversation took place Friday morning before the attacks in Paris.

Clay Masters: There was a lot of momentum behind your campaign coming out of those first two debates. What are you going to do in next 90 days to make sure you can keep momentum going or build a little bit more moving forward?

Photo by John Pemble

The new University of Iowa president, Bruce Harreld, says his biggest challenge in his new job is building trust across the entire UI community. Harreld’s first day was last week. The former IBM Executive faced scrutiny before he was selected for the job for how the search was conducted. Harreld says right now his job is to listen.


  It was here in Iowa where young voters helped propel Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. As the president leaves the oval office – Iowans have the opportunity to do the same in the caucuses in less than three months. Where does the youth vote stand now? NPR’s Michel Martin will be in Des Moines next week to hold a conversation on the topic. She talks with IPR's Clay Masters about the November 10th event at Drake University.

For decades, many presidential candidates campaigning in Iowa have made sure to offer their loud support for ethanol — the fuel made from corn.

Ethanol is an important industry in Iowa. The state is the top producer of ethanol in the nation, accounting for 28 percent of national production, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

But this election cycle, ethanol is not the campaign force it once was.

Take the contrast between George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign and the current campaign of his brother, Jeb Bush.

Clay Masters/IPR

The three remaining Democratic presidential candidates rallied thousands of supporters in Des Moines last night, at the state party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner.  During the Saturday’s speeches, Senator Sanders drew contrasts to Clinton by talking about his early opposition to the war in Iraq, the keystone XL pipeline and the Defense of Marriage Act. Janice Payne is a retired lab tech from Des Moines. She attended a rally for Senator Sanders before the dinner. “He’s more for the middle-class and he’s not about being bought by the upper echelon.

John Pemble / IPR

IPR's Clay Masters interviewed former Florida Governor and Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush at his West Des Moines headquarters Wednesday. The full transcript is below.

CM: Governor Bush, you’re doing your longest swing through Iowa this week. Why haven’t you been focusing more time here in Iowa?

Covering the Caucuses

Oct 2, 2015
Clay Masters / IPR

 The Iowa caucuses are only four months away now and with them be ready to hear more from NPR political reporters. NPR's Don Gonyea and Tamara Keith stopped by Iowa Public Radio to discuss covering the Iowa caucuses with IPR's Clay Masters.

"You tend to get a cross-section of parties. You get people haven’t made up their mind up yet and they’re happy to talk to you," Gonyea says. "That’s a treasure trove for a reporter."

Gonyea also notes you get close access to  most of the candidates.

Clay Masters/IPR

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton says she opposes the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. During a campaign stop in Des Moines, the former Secretary of State had not taken a position until now because she thought the issue would be resolved.

Clinton says she did not want to interfere with the President’s ongoing decision-making regarding the controversial extension of the Canadian crude oil pipeline. But during the campaign stop at Moulton Elementary School, a college student asked where she stood on its construction.

Gage Skidmore / Wikimedia Creative Commons

In a small state like Iowa with so many presidential candidates on the ground, the homegrown political talent to support those campaigns is stretched thin.

Joe Shannahan knows firsthand how tough the market for experienced political operatives is in the Hawkeye State these days.

"This year, it's difficult to find staff, because there are so many campaigns," says Shannahan, a partner with LS2Group in Des Moines, a public relations firm that often hires former campaign workers from both parties.