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

Jon Pemble/IPR file

The heads of both Iowa’s Republican and Democratic parties say they’re not concerned about party unity. That’s in spite of the fact both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the least-liked presidential candidates in the history of U.S. polling.

On the Republican side of the aisle, scores of prominent GOPers are refusing to support or defend Trump. This include several Iowa state lawmakers.

But chair Jeff Kaufmann says some of these un-endorsements are politically motivated.   

Phil Roeder / Flickr

Religious voters have become increasingly divided this election season, with a survey this Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute showing White Catholics favoring Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump 46 to 42 percent. Conversely, Evangelicals have stayed steady in their support of Trump: in that same survey there was no significant change in White Evangelical Protestants support for Trump, with 65 percent of them still supporting the Republican nominee.

Clay Masters/IPR

Former President Bill Clinton kicked off a bus tour in Iowa today, encouraging voters to vote early for his wife, Hillary Clinton. Early voting began in the state last month.

The rally at Simpson College began with U.S. Agriculture Secretary and Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack listing Midwest Republicans who have distanced themselves from their presidential nominee.

“There are senators from Nebraska and from South Dakota that have disavowed Donald Trump but unfortunately and tragically not the senators from Iowa,” he said.

The Ethanol Effect

Oct 7, 2016
Clay Masters / IPR

A new PBS documentary focusing on the impact of ethanol production airs this weekend on Iowa Public Television. IPR's Clay Masters speaks with environmental and energy reporter David Biello about his new documentary "The Ethanol Effect". 

Clay Masters/IPR

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders campaigned at Drake University in Des Moines today on behalf of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

“I’m here to say vote for Hillary Clinton on Election Day and the day after that we’re going to roll up our sleeves and make sure that we bring forth the most progressive agenda in the history of the United States of America,” Sanders said.

Sanders did well with young voters in last February’s Iowa caucuses, and narrowly lost to Clinton.  That group has been a crucial voting bloc for Democrats in past presidential elections. 

Clay Masters / IPR

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton campaigned in Iowa Des Moines today, the same day early voting for the November election began in Iowa, and a day after her main opponent, Republican Donald Trump, campaigned in Council Bluffs.

Clinton spoke to hundreds of supporters on at Cowles Commons plaza in downtown Des Moines, asking them if they were ready to go to the polls.

“Well, luckily in Iowa you can start today, lots of folks don’t have that opportunity across the country,” she said.

John Pemble / IPR

Iowa voters can start casting their ballots by mail today. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have been campaigning in this state this week like it’s their last chance. Because with many voters it may be. Hillary Clinton campaigns in Des Moines today while Donald Trump was in Council Bluffs on Wednesday.

Iowa’s Secretary of State says he expects more than 35% of Iowa ballots to be cast early starting today. Republicans here have seen a slight increase in voters requesting absentee ballots since 2012, while Democrats have seen a big drop off.

Cedar Rapids

The Cedar River in downtown Cedar Rapids is expected to crest Monday at 24 feet. That’s seven feet lower than in 2008 when floodwaters ravaged the city’s downtown. Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett says that forecast could change.

“We’re at the mercy of the river, we’ll be able do an adequate job of keeping most of the water in the banks of the river at 22 feet, so 24 is really go to be challenging for us and we just hope it doesn’t get any worse,” he says.

Clay Masters / IPR

Many Republican leaders in swing states are split or lukewarm on supporting their nominee for president. Not so in Iowa where Republicans have taken over many of the state’s top state and federal elected posts. All of the state’s top elected Republicans have announced they are supporting Donald Trump for president, and the Republican National Committee has made Iowa one of its priorities in November’s election.

John Pemble/IPR

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump was back in Iowa today, sticking close to his prepared remarks and continuing to go after his rival Hillary Clinton over comments she made about his supporters over the weekend.

At a rally in the Des Moines suburb of Clive, Trump blasted Clinton for putting half of his supporters in a “basket of deplorables”.

“While my opponent slanders you as deplorable and irredeemable, I call you hardworking American patriots and want a better future for all of our people,” he said.

Clay Masters / IPR

Donald Trump returned to Iowa Saturday where the race between him and Hillary Clinton remains very close. Trump was there for Iowa freshman Sen. Joni Ernst's Roast and Ride fundraiser, which features a motorcycle ride and barbeque.

Sen. Joni Ernst led the group of more than 400 riders on a 42-mile trip that started at a Harley Davidson dealer in Des Moines and ended on the Iowa State fairgrounds. Trump did not participate in the ride.

Clay Masters / IPR

There’s one issue both major presidential candidates seem to be in agreement on. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton say they’re opposed to President Obama’s multinational trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In the swing state of Iowa, many agricultural groups are in favor of the TPP for new markets it will open for exports like Iowa pork.

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There's one issue the major presidential candidates seem to agree on. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton say they're opposed to President Obama's multi-national trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Clay Masters / IPR

There’s been a lot of talk in Iowa about water quality. From failed attempts by the legislature and the governor to come up with new funding, to the state’s largest water utility suing three rural boards of supervisors in northwest Iowa. That area of the state is part of a region called the “prairie pothole”. It stretches from Canada, down through the Dakotas, northern Montana and western Minnesota as well.

In North Dakota, much of this habitat is still intact and conservationists are concerned about the health implications of a landscape looking more like Iowa.

John Pemble/IPR

Republican Congressman Steve King says he does not have any qualms with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border. He says he’d go even further. King made his comments before a crowd at the Des Moines Register soapbox on the opening day of the Iowa State Fair.

Clay Masters/IPR

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton was back in Des Moines Wednesday for her first appearance since her close win over Bernie Sanders in the Iowa caucuses. 

After touring a local t-shirt store and stopping at a bakery, Clinton spoke to about 1500 people packed in the gym at Lincoln High School. She says in her first 100 days as president she’ll make the biggest investment in good paying jobs since World War Two. She also spoke highly of Iowa wind energy.

Clay Masters / IPR

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was in Iowa last night, speaking just before his rival Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic presidential nomination. This was Trump’s first trip to the state since coming in second in the state’s kick-off caucuses.

Trump told thousands packed in a hotel convention room in downtown Cedar Rapids he learned a lot from Iowa.

"I went around for two months even after I won in New Hampshire. I kept going back to Iowa," Trump told the crowd. "I’d go what happened?"

John Pemble / IPR

  The Democratic National Convention begins on Monday in Philadelphia and Iowa’s 44 Democratic delegates will be there. Hillary Clinton is expected to formally get the nomination of her party for president. Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Andy McGuire is confident the party will unite behind Clinton even though some Iowa delegates continue to back Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. She says Clinton and Sanders had a lot in common.

“We talk about the inclusion we have in our party,” McGuire says. “I think people will come around to being unified.”

John Pemble / IPR

 The Republican National Convention starts in Cleveland on Monday and 30 delegates will represent Iowa. Jeff Kaufmann is the chairman of the Iowa Republican Party. He says Iowa delegates are bound to the presumptive presidential nominee even though a small group of delegates still want to back Iowa caucus winner Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

“Bottom line is we’ve got some folks that still want Cruz to be the nominee. That’s not going to happen," Kaufmann says. "The overwhelming majority of the Iowa delegation understands that Trump is our nominee.”

Clay Masters / IPR

  Presidential hopefuls barnstorm Iowa for months or even years in the run up to the state's first in the nation contest. Many hit all of its 99 counties, but the general election is all about the state's half dozen electoral votes. That means the campaigns treat it differently.

An efficient way to get voters is to target places like Ankeny, Iowa. New census data shows this small farm town turned bustling Des Moines suburb is the third-fastest growing city in the country. Gary Lorenz is its mayor. He says growth is more than just building roads.

Clay Masters/IPR

This week IPR News is taking a look at water quality in the state.

Iowa Lawmakers, farmers and environmentalists continue to debate the best way to curb water quality issues, following an unsuccessful attempt to fund more projects this legislative session.

Clay Masters / IPR

This week IPR News is taking a look at water quality in the state.

A state cost share program designed to help Iowa farmers install nutrient reduction practices on their farm is entering its fourth year.  Lawmakers and the governor struggled this legislative session to come up with a way to spend more money on water quality in the state. In the last three years, the state has awarded $12 million on 45 different projects.

Clay Masters / IPR

This week IPR News is taking a look at water quality in the state.

John Pemble / IPR

Lawmakers return to the capitol in Des Moines for what is expected to be the final week of the 2016 legislative session. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters talked with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell about the big issues they’re going to tackle (or not) before they can go home.

1)      The State Budget. This is always an issue Democrats in the Senate and Republicans in the House have to agree over.  A GOP Human Services Budget bill that defunds Planned Parenthood must be reconciled with the Democratic Senate.  

Peter Dutton/Flickr

Iowa’s largest public school district is testing its water for lead contamination. There are no state requirements for schools to routinely test their water supplies, but following reports of high levels of lead in school drinking water supplies around the country, Des Moines Public Schools decided they’d test all of their school buildings. Phil Roeder with the district says the average age of its schools is 65 years. He says all of the buildings have been renovated at some point.

Photo by John Pemble

The split Iowa Legislature has taken another step toward adjournment by agreeing to state budget targets. Details for the budget of about $7.3 billion remain pretty vague at this point. Here’s what IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell says are the important details to watch this week:

John Pemble

Here’s what to know going into the week at the Iowa legislature.

John Pemble / IPR


There are more deadlines this week that will force bills forward or fall flat. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters talked with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell and has these takeaways.

John Pemble / IPR

If Republicans don't hold hearings on the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Democrats believe the issue could help them win the Senate this November.

One test case for this proposition is Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee that oversees Supreme Court nominations.

At 82 years old, Grassley has coasted safely to re-election for decades and is seeking his seventh Senate term this fall.

Flickr / Steven Brewer

The Iowa Supreme Court is expected this morning to release a decision that could severely weaken Iowa’s open meetings law. The justices must decide if sending messages through an employee, the Warren County Board of Supervisors were still holding a "meeting," as defined under Iowa code.  

What happened?

In March 2014, the Warren County Board of Supervisors laid off 12 county employees.