Joyce Russell


Joyce Russell is a correspondent based at the Iowa Statehouse. Joyce has been covering the Iowa Statehouse since shortly after joining the news staff at WOI Radio in 1988. Her earlier broadcasting experience included news reporting at commercial stations in Oklahoma City and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Joyce’s reports can be heard on National Public Radio and American Public Media programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Marketplace.  She covered the last six Iowa caucus campaigns and interviewed numerous candidates for president, including some who went on to attain the highest office in the land.   

Joyce  has a bachelor’s degree in English from Saint Louis University and  a master’s degree in English from the University of Oklahoma.   

Joyce’s favorite public radio program is Fresh Air.

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About 300 people turned out in Newton Saturday night to hear Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who is on a two-day weekend campaign swing through the state.   Sanders drew cheers with his populist message, including criticizing income inequality.  

Elizabeth Gaffney, a high school teacher from Baxter, has already heard Bernie Sanders, once in Ames, and again on the soapbox at the State Fair.  

She is new to Democratic politics.         

 “I used to be a Republican,” Gaffney says.  “Bernie’s made me a convert.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

An Ames minister will receive the 2013 Robert D. Ray Iowa SHARES Humanitarian Award for his 30-year  career fighting hunger in Iowa and around the world.   

In a ceremony next month, officials with the World Food Prize will honor Rev. Russ Melby who organized Church World Service Hunger Walks in Iowa communities to benefit Iowa food banks, as well as hunger relief abroad.    

Rev. Melby came to Iowa in 1984 and hoped to organize food walks in all 99 counties within five years.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum today appeared before the Westside Conservative Breakfast club in Urbandale where he staked out one of the most conservative positions on immigration in the Republican race for president.    

Santorum wants to limit not just illegal immigration but legal entry into the country.    

Santorum says too many people are coming here legally and competing for American jobs.

Hades 2K/flickr

Some Iowa consumers have gone without landline phone service for weeks at a time this summer, and the Iowa Office of Consumer Advocate is requesting proceedings against the CenturyLink phone company. 

Between August 24 and September 11th, the office received eight complaints of repair delays ranging from ten days to, in one case, more than a month.  

Consumer Advocate Mark Schuling has asked the Iowa Utilities board to consolidate the cases to speed things up.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Eight Republican candidates for President were in Des Moines last night, vying for the votes of Christian conservatives at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s annual fall banquet. 

Some evangelicals say it’s hard to win the Iowa caucuses without their support but so far they have not coalesced behind a single candidate.  

Some have chosen sides.  Jeff Newell of Granger waved a sign for Texas Senator Ted Cruz as hundreds of activists filed in to the Knapp center at the fairgrounds.  

“I think Christians are getting a raw deal,” Newell says.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

The husband of a Burlington woman who was shot and killed by a Burlington police officer appeared before a state board today, arguing for the release of a video recording and other information in the case.  

In January, Officer Jesse Hill answered a domestic disturbance call and shot and killed 34-year old Autumn Steele after the family’s dog attacked him. 

Steele’s family and the Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper petitioned the Iowa Public Information board hoping to be able to hear 911 recordings and view body cam video.  


Iowa Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley is questioning an Obama administration proposal to admit thousands of Middle Eastern refugees into the U.S., as the migrant crisis continues in Europe. 

Tens of thousands of migrants have fled Syria, Iraq, and other countries, creating havoc as European countries struggle to accommodate them.

 The U.S. State Department proposal would lift the overall cap for immigration, including admitting 10-thousand refugees from war-torn Syria. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

President Barack Obama Monday spent more than an hour in conversation with students, teachers and parents at North High School in Des Moines, talking about how to make college more affordable.

The president urged students and their parents to do everything they can to win some of the 150 billion dollars in annual federal student aid each year to avoid big debt on graduation, and to use new federal tools to rank schools for quality and affordability. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republican Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds has added her voice to criticism of GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s latest controversial statements. 

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Trump viewed Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina on camera and remarked, “Look at that face.   Would anyone vote for that?” 

Reynolds says that’s not acceptable.

“I don’t find it acceptable in politics,” Reynolds says.  “I don’t find it acceptable in business.  I don’t find it acceptable anywhere.”  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Four Republican candidates for President braved the raucous tailgating crowd yesterday in Ames ahead of the annual Cyclone Hawkeye football game.   Each candidate drew curious onlookers as they made their way across the tailgating scene.    Joyce Russell brings us some of the sounds of the day from the candidates who attended the tailgate, to football fans who were more interested in pigskin that politics.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is minimizing complaints about the private firms selected to manage Iowa’s more than four billion dollar Medicaid program that provides health care for Iowa’s poor and disabled.  

A Des Moines Register investigation shows fraud and mismanagement by the firms in other states.       

The state is scheduled to turn over management of the giant program to the four companies starting in January.    But three firms that didn’t win the contracts are requesting a review of the bidding process, which they call haphazard.  

Joyce Russell/IPR file

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad says he is not joining the calls for President Obama to cancel an upcoming state visit by the President of China.  Republican Presidential candidates Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Carly Fiorina are among those saying Obama should cancel Xi Jinping’s state visit next month because of what they call China’s efforts to undermine U.S. interests.  On Friday, Branstad said President Xi is an old friend and that relationship has been good for Iowa.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The NAACP held a day-long symposium Friday on the overrepresentation of African-Americans in Iowa prisons.   

The symposium addressed a wide range of issues, from racial profiling to the underrepresentation of minorities on Iowa juries.  

The NAACP cites statistics showing the overrepresentation of minorities in corrections is worse in Iowa than in any other state, in particular for drug offenses.  

Arnold Woods with the Des Moines NAACP says it’s not an abstract topic for blacks.

Asya Acka/Radio Iowa

Democratic candidate for President Hillary Clinton rolled out her plans for rural America during a stop in Ankeny Wednesday.  

Clinton addressed a crowd of about 250 in the FFA building at Des Moines Area Community College,  with a John Deere tractor as a backdrop. 

“I know it’s a little unusual for a candidate for President to be making a speech about this at a community college instead of a barn or bale of hay,” Clinton says.  “But at least we got a tractor,” she joked.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz delivered one red meat applause line after another to a receptive crowd today at the Des Moines Register soapbox at the Iowa State Fair.  

Cruz is  running for the Republican nomination for president.   Like other conservative candidates, he wants to dismantle most of the federal government, repeal Obamacare, and secure the borders.   

He says the fatal shooting of servicemembers at recruiting centers in Tennessee should never happen again.

Asya Akca

Republicans in the Iowa House have chosen Clear Lake Representative Linda Upmeyer to be the next Speaker of the House, and the first woman to hold the position.     Upmeyer will take over from current speaker, Hiwawatha Republican  Kraig Paulsen.  

The top Democrat in the House was quick to criticize the new leadership.   And Upmeyer’s Republican opponent for the top spot says his party needs some fresh ideas.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

  Former Texas Governor Rick Perry drew a crowd on the state fairground’s grand concourse today, taking his turn at the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox and making his case he should be the Republican nominee for President.     He drew cheers with a strong anti-Washington message.  

 “I think what this country needs is a proven leader day in and day out who will go to the Oval Office and make Washington D.C. as inconsequential as we can make it,” Perry says.   “I can do this.”     

He says Washington’s only role should be to secure the borders, and to build up the military:

Joyce Russell/IPR

  Ohio Governor and Republican candidate for President John Kasich attracted a crowd of about a hundred people at the Iowa State Fair today, taking his turn on the Des Moines Register’s Soapbox.      

Rain forced the event inside.  

Kasich is appealing to moderates rather than conservatives in the race for the Republican nomination.

“I ran for office because I thought I could make a difference,” Kasich says.   “I’m a Republican but it has always been my vehicle and never been my master.”  


South Carolina Senator and candidate for the Republican nomination for President Lindsey Graham addressed a crowd of about a hundred people in West Des Moines today.  

Graham is travelling the country arguing for a "no" vote in Congress for the Obama Administration’s nuclear agreement with Iran.  

Flanked by a banner proclaiming “No Nukes for Iran,”   Graham says the agreement will promote terrorism in the Middle East. 

He presents himself as the strongest security hawk in the race.  And he vows to fight radical Islam with more U.S. ground troops overseas.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The NAACP announced today it will host a two-day summit next month to take a comprehensive look at racial disparities in Iowa’s criminal justice system.  

Law enforcement, judges, corrections officials and others will examine why African-Americans make up a bigger percentage in Iowa prisons than they do in the population as a whole.   

It’s a bigger event than the group has sponsored in the past.   

Governor Branstad will attend and the national NAACP will be on hand for the Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad says it’s too early to predict a winner in the race for the Republican nomination for president.   But he says that it will probably not be real estate mogul Donald Trump in spite of his first place ranking in current national polls, and his second place standing among Iowa voters.

"It's way early and polls at this point in time tend to reflect name recognition," Branstad says. "And, obviously, he's a TV personality who has a lot of recognition, but there's a lot of really good candidates in this race.”

Joyce Russell/IPR

Real estate mogul and Republican candidate for president Donald Trump says he expects the other candidates to come after him hard when they meet in a debate next month.    But Trump is downplaying expectations for his performance.  

Only the candidates polling in the top ten will be allowed to participate.   

“I'm by far number one to the chagrin of many people,” Trump said at a news conference in Oskaloosa Saturday.   “But I’m not a debater.  I produce jobs.  I never stood at a podium and debated a large number of people.”  

So  many people turned out to hear real estate mogul and Republican candidate for president Donald Trump in Oskaloosa yesterday, they had to put several hundred in an overflow room.  

 Trump drew a larger crowd than his Republican opponents have been attracting.

More than 60-percent of likely voters nationwide tell pollsters they would never vote for Trump.   The crowd in Oskaloosa didn’t’ get that memo. 

Trump’s Iowa campaign manager Chuck Laudner is a long-time backer of anti-establishment candidates. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Former Hewlett Packard Executive Carly Fiorina brought her presidential campaign to the Tassel Ridge winery near Oskaloosa   last night.   

It’s part of a four day campaign swing through the state. 

About seventy people showed up to hear Fiorina distinguish herself from what she calls the professional politicians she’s running against.  

She gives a hard-hitting conservative stump speech.   She looks ahead to fighting the likely Democratic opponent.   

“If we want to win we have to throw every punch at Hillary Clinton,” Fiorina says.

The Iowa Board of Regents is continuing its court fight in the case of Bubu Palo, the former Iowa State University basketball player who was accused of sexual assault back in May of 2012.  

The Regents want a new ruling in the case, even though Palo has left the university and now plays in the National Basketball Association Development League. 

Palo was charged in Story County District Court with sexual abuse, but prosecutors later dropped the charge. 

Iowa State argued that Palo had violated university disciplinary code and should be kept off the team.     

General Frank Grass/flickr

Gov. Terry Branstad has ordered a review of security at all Iowa National Guard facilities including recruiting stations after last week’s fatal shooting of Marine and Navy personnel in Chattanooga, Tenn. 

The Chattanooga shootings began at a recruiting station and ended at a military base, killing five people. In several states governors ordered the arming of guardsmen and women at recruiting stations and other facilities after the fatal attack.  

Clay Masters / IPR

Ten Republican Presidential candidates vied for the evangelical vote Saturday in Ames at a forum sponsored by the leading Christian conservative group the Family Leader.

Nearly three thousand people showed up, including 250 pastors.    So far, no one has the important religious right vote sewn up.

There was a lot of agreement on display, against abortion and same-sex marriage, for religious liberty, and for a strong alliance with Israel. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa Public Information Board which is charged with enforcing Iowa’s open records law yesterday voted to continue looking into a fatal police shooting in Burlington earlier this year.    The Board must decide whether the public has the right to see a police report on the shooting and other materials  including 911 calls and a dash cam video.  

In January, Officer Jesse Hill responded to a fight between 34-year-old Autumn Steele and her husband.   Steele’s dog bit the officer, and Hill fired his gun twice, killing Ms. Steele.  

Iowa Department of Transportation

Every year across the country children die of heatstroke after being left in locked vehicles. The Iowa Department of Transportation wants to make sure that doesn’t happen here.  

This week, the electronic billboard on Iowa interstates includes the slogan, “Where’s Baby?  Look Before you Lock.”      

The campaign comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Clay Masters/IPR

Iowa Fourth District Republican Rep. Steve King today showed up on the Washington Post’s list of questionable tweets by members of Congress. But the project that made his activity public was shut down after Twitter withdrew its permission.  

Twitter gave the Sunlight Foundation access to deleted tweets by members of Congress and King’s activity caught some attention. The congressman retweeted a message from someone getting on the subway.