2016 Elections

Joyce Russell/IPR

Amid pomp and circumstance and Republican celebration, the 87th  General Assembly of the Iowa Legislature convened in Des Moines today for the 2017 legislative session.   The new Republican majority promises significant conservative change on a number of fronts.      Minority Democrats say get ready for a fight. 

The house and Senate gaveled in nearly simultaneously at 10 a.m for a day dominated by traditional opening speeches expressing hopes of working together to get things done.     

Voters in parts of Scott County have until tomorrow to cast their ballot in the special election for state senate seat in District 45.  The seat in western Davenport and all of the city of Buffalo has been vacant since September, after the death of longtime Senator Joe Seng.

Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz acknowledges that while two days after Christmas isn't the most opportune time to head to the polls, she encourages people to still turn in a ballot.

"People have fought for us to have the right to vote," says Mortiz. "Don't become apathetic." 

United States Office of Humanities

Jim Leach served Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. He is now a senior scholar at the University of Iowa after serving on faculty at Harvard and Princeton and after serving as chair at the National Endowment for the Humanities. During this River to River interview, he talks with host Ben Kieffer about his view on global challenges facing the next president.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Governor Branstad is expressing confidence that the new Donald Trump administration will be pro-ethanol, in spite of his recent pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. 

Nominee Scott Pruitt is Attorney General for the state of Oklahoma.  

Pruitt has argued against the Renewable Fuel Standard in proceedings before the U.S. Supreme Court.   The RFS mandates ethanol blends in the nation’s fuel supply.

Branstad says Pruitt is a brilliant conservative lawyer.

Photo by Joyce Russell/IPR

Just a day after Governor Branstad met with President-Elect Donald Trump the news is now official.   Branstad has accepted an invitation to become U.S. Ambassador to China.  

Officials from both parties are weighing in.     Now the speculation begins on the political ramifications of Branstad leaving office.  

A spokesman for the Trump transition team  said it’s Branstad’s experience in public policy, trade, and agriculture that won him  the job.

John Pemble/IPR

Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann says he will seek another term after leading his party to major victories in the 2016 election.

Iowa's top Republicans, including Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst, Governor Branstad, and Lieutenant Governor Reynolds, wrote Kaufmann a letter Friday, asking him to stay on as the party's chairman.

No one else has emerged to challenge Kaufmann, so it's likely he'll be re-elected January 28th when the Iowa GOP's state central committee meets.

Jimmy Centers / Office of Governor Terry Branstad

Governor Branstad will meet later this week in New York City with president-elect Donald Trump amid speculation the governor will be asked to become U.S. Ambassador to China. 

Branstad is rumored to be among Trump’s top choices for the job.   This past weekend, a Bloomberg Politics report said Branstad is the frontrunner for the post.

Branstad leaves for a previously-scheduled economic development trip to New York City Tuesday and is scheduled to meet at some point with Trump before he leaves New York.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

A top Republican in the Iowa legislature is calling for a comprehensive review of state tax policy, including cutting taxes, now that his party is in full control at the statehouse.   

House GOP leader Chris Hagenow (R-Windsor Heights)  answered questions at a meeting of the Iowa Taxpayers Association today.  

“I think we need a completely fresh look at tax policy in this state top to bottom and we're going to go through that,”  Hagenow said.  “Fundamentally, it’s 'are we going to find a way to reduce the tax burden  of Iowa taxpayers?'”  

Marcia Cirillo/flickr

Unofficial totals from last week’s election are out from the Secretary of State’s office, showing turnout among Iowa voters was down slightly compared to 2012.  

Officials say the numbers reflect the weaker support for Hillary Clinton compared to Barack Obama four years ago.    

More than than one-and-a-half million Iowans voted this year.

“In terms of all registered voters turnout was 71.2 percent according to the data we have so far,” said Secretary of State spokesman Kevin Hall.

Ian Freimuth / Flickr

RAYGUN, the snarky clothing company based out of Des Moines, has made hand towels emblazoned with a donkey, elephant and the words ‘Thank You For Not Discussing the Election” encircled and crossed through, just in time for Thanksgiving. After one of the most divisive elections in modern American history, Thanksgiving dinner will be undoubtedly dicey conversational territory for many Iowans.

House GOP caucus

Republicans in the Iowa House have voted to re-install the leaders who oversaw last week’s GOP success at the ballot box.

Republicans now enjoy at a 59 seat majority in the House after defeating two Democratic incumbents last week.

Meeting in private on Wednesday, they re-elected Rep. Linda Upmeyer of Clear Lake as Speaker of the House and Rep. Chris Hagenow of Windsor Heights as majority leader.   He will direct the House debate calendar.

House Republicans will meet next month to discuss specifics on the agenda.

Evan Vucci, AP

Republican candidate Donald Trump made a practice of criticizing the media at his campaign rallies, even calling out some journalists by name. That criticism was greeted by booing, jeering and worse from the crowds. NPR political reporter Sarah McCammon was there for all of it. She spoke with Trump supporters throughout the campaign and witnessed the Trump campaign’s relationship with the media.

Emily Woodbury

It’s been a long election season here in Iowa, and as the dust begins to settle, there's one thing left to do: grab a pint and debrief with fellow Iowans.

On this special edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer and Clay Masters host post-election conversations in front of live audiences in Marion and Des Moines.

Sarah Boden/IPR

Some 200 peaceful protesters took to the streets in Des Moines on Thursday evening after gathering on the steps of the state capitol. This “Not My President” protest is one of many taking place nationwide since Tuesday's election.

The event began as a rally and progressed to a march. Demonstrators walked from the capitol building, through Des Moines’s East Village, to city hall before the parade circled back.

NSHEPARD / FLICKR

In Des Moines, an elementary school teacher reports that a student on the playground hugged her and said she'd be missed if the student's family got deported back to Mexico, and in Cedar Rapids, the Islamic Center is providing counseling for young women struggling with whether or not to continue to wear hijab. 

But in other parts of the state, Iowans are excited about the changing political tides. During this hour of River to River, we hear from a handful of Iowans who are digesting the results of Tuesday and asking themselves, "now what?" 

el7bara/Flickr

The Imam at the Islamic Center of Cedar Rapids says Muslims in his community are reacting with a mix of fear and sadness to the election of Donald Trump as president.

Hassan Salim says he hopes President-elect Donald Trump will watch his language when talking about Islam.

“There are millions of American Muslims who are truly hurt every time he does not distinguish between what Islam is, what American Muslims are, and radical Islam. These are two separate things and he needs to make it very clear.”

Clay Masters / IPR

Whether very excited or fearful and upset, voter reaction to the results of Tuesday's election, when Republicans swept congressional and state contests and Donald Trump won the presidency, has been strong. During this hour on River to River, host Ben Kieffer debriefs on the results. 

John Pemble/IPR

The Republican party did well in statehouse races across the country Tuesday, and the Iowa GOP did its part for the victory.   

Republicans took control of the Iowa Senate, continuing a nationwide trend over the past several years.   

Daniel Diorio with the National Conference of State Legislatures says Republicans now control two-thirds of all House and Senate chambers nationwide. 

“Republicans are at their all-time high for state chamber control,” Diorio said.   “So they have really dominated ever since 2010 state legislatures across the country.”

Pat Blank/IPR

Iowa’s congressional incumbents all won reelection Tuesday, as the delegation remains at three Republicans and one Democrat. 

Republican 1st District Rep. Rod Blum of Dubuque defeated former Cedar Rapids council member Monica Vernon, capturing 54 percent of the vote across 20 counties in northeast Iowa.

Once the race was called in his favor, Blum told a raucous crowd in Dubuque that’s he is going back to Capitol Hill finish what he started when he voted against then-House Speaker John Boehner.

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Republican Party is celebrating a victory in the Iowa Senate.  

After Tuesday’s voting,   Republicans picked up six seats to win a new 29 to 19 majority, the first time the GOP has controlled both Houses of the legislature since the 2002 election.  

It’s the first time since the 1996 election that Republicans held the trifecta:  the governor’s office and both the House and Senate.      

Senate minority leader Bill Dix, soon to be majority leader, addressed a cheering crowd at the GOP watch party in Des Moines.

John Pemble/IPR

Senator Charles Grassley’s re-election to a seventh term was called as soon as the polls closed in Iowa. The 83-year-old Senator says there’s still work to do when he returns to Washington.

Michael Leland/IPR

The polls are open from 7 a.m. through 9 p.m..

What’s being decided? 

If you didn't vote early in Iowa, you're going to need to cast a ballot at your polling place. Find it here: 

FLICKR / JOE HALL

Today is the final day for Iowans to vote early and skip the long lines Election Day. Some counties also are likely on Monday to begin tallying the over half-million ballots already cast. Those results are kept internal and won't be released until tomorrow, after 9:00 pm when polling is complete.

Secretary of State Paul Pate encourages anyone who’s not yet mailed in their absentee ballot to drop it off in-person at their county courthouse. All ballots must be postmarked by today.

Procrastinators, your deadline is approaching! November 8th is election day. If you haven't voted yet, catch up on our election coverage: We'll hear the final report in our series on Iowa congressional races with a profile of the 4th district campaign, as well as a final bit of analysis of the rarest of voters, those still undecided.

Episode 5: 

Don Becker, USGS / Flickr

Climate change, while a major issue with huge ramifications, has been nearly lost in the clamor of this year's election campaigns. During all three presidential debates – a total of some four and a half hours of debating – less than six minutes was spent discussing the candidates’ policies related to climate change.

Amy Mayer/John Pemble / IPR

Next week, Iowans will decide whether to send Republican Senator Chuck Grassley back to Washington for a seventh term. His main opponent, Democrat Patty Judge, is working to paint the senator as a leading cause for obstruction in the US Senate. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

One of Donald Trump’s most combative supporters, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, traveled the state Wednesday, drumming up support for the Republican candidate for president ahead of next week’s election.    

A standing room only crowd of Trump supporters showed up at a 7 a.m. meeting of the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale to hear the former federal prosecutor.     

To an approving crowd, Giuliani did not pull any punches in attacking Hillary Clinton.   

He called the Clinton family a criminal enterprise.

Tony Webster / Flickr

In a Quinnipiac Poll conducted from October 20 to 26 in Iowa, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton are tied with 44% of likely voters backing each candidate. That polling took place before FBI director James Comey sent a document to Congress explaining there was additional evidence related to Clinton’s use of a private email server.

John Pemble/IPR

Democrats in the Iowa Senate who stood in the way of gun rights bills are now facing opposition for re-election in several districts around the state.  

The Iowa Firearms Coalition is working to defeat the incumbents, in hopes of achieving a Republican majority in the Senate.

Last year the Republican-controlled House approved bills to protect the confidentiality of gun permit holders, and to eliminate age restrictions for children handling guns with adult supervision.    In 2015 a wide-ranging gun bill would have eliminated background checks for private handgun sales.

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