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

Clay Masters / IPR

The Maximum Ames Music Festival took place over the weekend. It featured 100 bands from the around the country and Iowa.  It’s organized by two musicians who also run a record label under the same name.  They started this event four years ago to expose the label’s Iowa based musicians to larger audiences, but now they’re changing their strategy.

Charlie Litchfield / The Des Moines Register

The two major party candidates for Iowa’s open U.S. senate seat debated last night at Simpson College in Indianola. The debate came a day after the first Des Moines Register Iowa Poll of the general election. It shows Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley trailing his Republican opponent State Senator Joni Ernst by 6 points. Braley had the first opening statement and after a quick introduction says there are big differences between him and Ernst.

Clay Masters / IPR

Early voting for the 2014 midterm elections begins Thursday in Iowa.

A record number of absentee ballots for a midterm election have gone out to Iowa voters according to Secretary of State Matt Schultz. 2014 requests for absentee ballots are about double, compared with 2010.

"We've got about 60,000 Democrats who have asked for absentee ballots," Schultz said. "We've got more than 30,000 Republicans and about 25,000 no-party voters. So you do the math and we're getting close to 100,000."

Clay Masters / IPR

  Most of the attention during this mid-term election season in Iowa has been on the races for U.S. Senate and Governor. However, further down the ballot, Iowa voters will determine who controls the Iowa Senate. Right now, Democrats hold a 26 to 24 majority. Democrats must hold all of their current seats, or pick up others to maintain control and are defending six seats in this mid-term election.

Democratic Senate majority leader Mike Gronstal said he’s cautiously optimistic and sees a handful of seats Democrats can pick up.

Clay Masters / IPR

Former Secretary of State and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton returned to Iowa Sunday for the first time since her 3rd place finish in the Iowa Caucuses in 2008.   She was the featured speaker at retiring  Democratic Senator Tom Harkin’s annual steak fry.  Even Harkin admitted she stole the show. 

Senator Harkin took the stage before some ten thousand activists and said this is a hell of a crowd:

“And to think you all came here just to see me,” Harkin joked with the crowd.  “Who am I kidding? You've had some steak now it’s time for some sizzle.”

Clay Masters / IPR

Republicans have their eye on a handful of seats they need to pick up to take control of the U.S. Senate this November. One is longtime Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, who’s retiring later this year. The open seat pits Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley against Republican State Senator Joni Ernst. Polls show the race neck and neck as the candidates have just more than two months left to campaign.

Clay Masters / IPR

 Business is booming in North Dakota’s Bakken Shale oilfields. With that boom comes a need for infrastructure. More than half of the oil out of the Bakken leaves by train or truck.  But companies are working on pipelines.  One proposed pipeline would cut clear through the state of Iowa. 

Clay Masters / IPR

Joni Ernst, who’s running as the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, held her first campaign event after returning from active duty with the Iowa National Guard.

Clay Masters / IPR

The Okoboji area is known for its tourism industry. The most recent data from the Dickinson County Chamber of Commerce says 255 million dollars are spent annually from tourism. But for last 40 years, cyclists on the Register’s Great Bike Ride Across Iowa have never stayed overnight in the Iowa Great Lakes. The natural barrier is a winding highway that goes from four to two lanes to wind around the lakes and an amusement park. But the RAGBRAI moved through the Iowa Great Lakes with no major problems.

Carol M. Highsmith / Library of Congress

While some say this year's Supreme Court session was conservative, others have characterized it as consistent.

Clay Masters / IPR

  Torrential downpours in northwest Iowa caused rivers to swell… floodwaters damaged homes, businesses and farmland.  Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are assessing the area to see if it qualifies for federal help. State officials on Monday said public infrastructure sustained more than $15 million worth of damage in the state.

That doesn’t include homes, businesses and farmland in Rock Valley and other parts of the region that were destroyed.

“We’ve had a few (floods), but nothing remotely close to this,” said Rock Valley Mayor Kevin Van Otterloo.


    Singer and Songwriter Jolie Holland has been making music since the 1990s. Her new album 'Wine Dark Sea' is this week's CD of the Week on IPR's Studio One. IPR's Clay Masters spoke with Holland soon after she finished recording the album. 

Joyce Russell / IPR

Democratic and Republican Primary voters went to the polls Tuesday to select candidates for the 2014 general election, but for Third-District Republicans it's not over yet. The biggest race last night was for the U.S. Senate Republican primary nomination. State Senator Joni Ernst easily won that race. IPR's Clay Masters talks with University of Northern Iowa Political Science Professor Donna Hoffman about last night's results. 

Clay Masters / IPR

Iowa will hold its primary on Tuesday, June 3. Democratic Senator Tom Harkin is retiring and that’s set off a domino effect of politicians vying for higher office and this midterm election could make history if voters send a woman to Washington. It’s just one of two states that have never done so or elected a woman as governor; the other is Mississippi.

John Pemble / IPR

  National leaders, governors, mayors and tribal leaders met in Des Moines this week for a task force meeting that will make recommendations to the White House this fall. IPR's Clay Masters talked with Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie about what those recommendations might look like.   

Clay Masters / IPR

  Democratic Senator Tom Harkin announced last year he was retiring. It’s been decades since Iowa’s had an open senate seat. 

There are five candidates on the Republican side: State Senator Joni Ernst, Former Energy Executive Mark Jacobs, Ames businessman Scott Schaben, Morningside Economics Professor Sam Clovis and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker.

John Pemble / IPR

One of the biggest surprises this 2014 Iowa election season was Third District Republican Congressman Tom Latham’s announcement late last year he would not seek re-election. Thanks to redistricting in 2012 it was incumbent versus incumbent in the third district when Latham faced another longtime congressman, Democratic Congressman Leonard Boswell. 

In 2014, it’s a crowded group of Republicans running to face a Democrat who’s been in the race for almost a year. 

Candidate facebook profile photos

More than a year ago, the 2014 mid-term election looked like a sleepy one in Iowa. But a U.S. Senate seat and two congressional districts are up for grabs without incumbents. With the primary election a little more than two weeks away, IPR's Clay Masters takes a look at the open races. Iowa's first congressional district is in northeast Iowa and includes the cities of Cedar Rapids and Waterloo. Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley is leaving his seat to run for Tom Harkin’s U.S. Senate seat.

Clay Masters / IPR

Randy Brubaker was a longtime journalist in Iowa. In 1983 he joined the Iowa City Press Citizen and came  to the Des Moines Register in 1988. He held many roles at the Register, most recently he was Senior News Director and oversaw the newspaper's investigative team. He died May 3 of apparent heart failure at 55, just four months after his wife died of a heart attack. In addition to two sons and legions of reporters who he mentored, his legacy includes the Iowa Visual History Center. It's an archive of newspapers and photo negatives that span from the 1940s to 1990s.

John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa Legislature adjourned last week and even though it’s an election year, lawmakers managed to get a few big items accomplished, including a $7-billion budget and a bill that decriminalizes some forms of medical marijuana in the state. At the same time, priority bills from the governor to crack down on schoolyard bullying and expand broadband to rural parts of the state failed.

John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa Legislature adjourned last week. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters checks in with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell to discuss what got done this legislative year. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

While there are many differences between Iowa and our neighboring states, there are also many similarities.  For example, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently signed a bill to allow the use of a cannabis extract for the treatment of seizures, while Minnesota's state legislature is still working on a similar proposal.  In recent weeks, an effort to decriminalize the possession of cannabis oil has gained ground in the Iowa statehouse.  In this week's legislative show, Host Clay Masters talks with statehouse reporters in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri to compare notes, and see

John Pemble / IPR

The predictions are out there that Iowa's legislative session will wrap up early this week. On Mondays we check in with IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell to make sense of everything going on up at the capitol.

Jordi Vidal / Redferns

Musician Jason Molina influenced many of his peers and sold tens of thousands of records for a small independent label from Indiana. Molina died at age 39 a little more than a year ago from organ failure due to alcohol abuse. But now two new releases are paying tribute to the musician. Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters has more. 

Alex Lapuerta / Creative Commons

A bill is being drafted at the Iowa Statehouse to separate greyhound racing from the two casinos that no longer want to support it.  Host Clay Masters spoke with Senator Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls, who says the agreement provides both a "soft landing" and a "second chance" for the greyhound industry.  That means breeders who want to quit breeding dogs for racing can receive a payout, and the Iowa Greyhound Association will get a chance to manage a track for themselves.  Currently casino revenues in Dubuque and Council Bluffs have been supplementing the purses paid at the tracks.  Daniels

U.S. Department of Labor

The Chairs of the Iowa Senate and House Transportation Committees say they're still hopeful two key proposals can win approval in the final days of the legislative session.  A bill approved by the Iowa Senate would've made texting while driving a primary offense.  In other words, an officer could stop and ticket a driver for texting while driving, without the driver committing another moving violation.  That bill failed to win approval before a funnel deadline in the House, but Senator Tod Bowman, a Maquoketa Democrat, says the bill will likely come up again in future sessions and Represent

John Pemble / IPR

Calls for further hearings regarding secret settlements, funding for Iowa's three Regent universities and an uncertain future for anti-bullying legislation.

Statehouse correspondent Joyce Russell speaks with IPR’s Morning Edition Host Clay Masters. 


  A bill allowing Iowans to use medical marijuana in the form of cannabis oil is still alive at the statehouse. The Iowa Senate will move a medical marijuana bill before the end of the session.  

John Pemble / IPR

Despite predictions for a speedy session in which nothing of substance was accomplished, the 2014 legislative session has had plenty of controversy.  Governor Terry Branstad was a guest on IPR’s River to River on Monday.

Photo by John Pemble

Children with serious mental health issues are waiting as long as two years to receive services in their communities.  Host Clay Masters talks with Tammy from Iowa City whose son has been diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, Bipolar Disorder, Asperger's Syndrome and Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  She says services like respite care are essential for families exhausted from caring for a suicidal or angry child.  But such services aren't covered by insurance.  A children's mental health waiver is designed to cover the gap between what insurance covers and what services are needed, but the wa