After serving two tours of duty in Iraq with the Iowa National Guard, Jim Mowrer says he's ready to serve his country in a slightly different manner. 

John Pemble / IPR

Des Moines Register political columnist, Kathie Obradovich, joins River to River to discuss the ongoing investigation into settlement agreements given to former state employees for their silence upon termination.

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Three open congressional seats from Iowa are up for grabs in this November’s midterm elections – a very rare occurrence in Iowa politics!

Today on River to River, an analysis of last night's primary results for those races. Joining host Ben Kieffer are guests Kathie Obradovich, of the Des Moines Register, and Tim Hagle of the University of Iowa.

Ben asks them about the candidates’ strengths, possible weaknesses, and he has them ponder campaign strategies each camp is likely to employ leading up to November.

Wyoming_Jackrabbit / flickr

State money is helping to build a new Christian park in Sioux City. Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, a Satanic statue will be erected outside a courthouse, next to the Ten Commandments.

State Senator Brad Zaun (R) of Urbandale told the Des Moines Register Editorial Board earlier this week that he has carried a 9 millimeter hand gun into the state capitol when the legislature has been in session. "I think that there are too many doors that can be easily accessed without going through security. There are crazy people out there." 

Voice of America

International outrage has been sparked by the kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian girls.  Boko Haram, an Al Qaeda affiliated group, has taken credit for the kidnappings.  The U.S. this week pledged military and law enforcement personnel to aid in the search for the girls.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Jim McCormick, Professsor of Political Science at Iowa State University about likely U.S. involvement in Nigeria.  They also discuss the unraveling situation in Ukraine with William Reisinger, Professor of Political Science at University of Iowa.


Iowa's June primary election is heating up.  Republican senatorial candidates have been debating, buying ads, and collecting big name endorsements.  But, only one will be campaigning to take incumbent Democrat Tom Harkin's seat.  Host Dean Borg talks with Kathie Obradovich, Political Columnist for the Des Moines Register and Tim Hagle, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Iowa about Iowa's primary races for Congress and U.S.

U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday that upholds Michigan's right to bar racial preference in college admissions.  Or, at least we think so.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Associate Professor of Political Science Tim Hagle from University of Iowa, and Joan and Abbott Lipsky Professor of Political Science Bruce Nesmith of Coe College about the ruling and what it means.  The opinions are confusing at best.  They also discuss the conflict in Ukraine, and the grassroots mobilization around a 2016 presidential run for Hillary Rodham Clinton.

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As the Ukrainian crisis deepens, Host Ben Kieffer talks with Wayne Moyer of Grinnell College and Donna Hoffman of University of Northern Iowa about U.S. response.  Other topics include, the Pulitzer Prize awarded to the Washington Post and the Guardian for their coverage of the NSA, a new climate change study, and Stephen Colbert's new Late Night gig.

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Women currently make up 18.5 percent of the U.S. Congress. Yet Iowa is one of only two states that has never elected a woman to Congress nor had a female governor.

This hour, a look at the gender gap in politics – Why do women run for office less than their male counterparts? When they are in office, how do they govern?

Some highlights from today's guests:

Three reasons for the gender gap in political ambition: from Jennifer Lawless, Director of the Women & Politics Institute and Professor of Government at American University

Pete Souza / Official White House photo

As protests continue in Eastern Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry says it's clear the chaos is being orchestrated by Russia.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield Professor of Political Science at Grinnell College and Jim McCormick, Professor and Chair of Political Science at Iowa State University about Russian President Valdimir Putin's motivations.  They also discuss the politics of equal pay, and the recent firing of Department of Administrative Services Director Mike Carroll.

Squeal / JoniforIowa.com

Video has surfaced of Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley at a private Texas fundraiser with trial lawyers drawing a stark contrast between a future with him serving on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a future with GOP Senator Charles Grassley Chairing that committee.  In the video, Braley describes Grassley as an "Iowa farmer" who "never went to law school."  Slate has called it the

Durrie Bouscaren / Iowa Public Radio

After speaking with at least half of the administrative law judges who rule cases for unemployment disputes, State Senator Bill Dotzler (D-Waterloo) says he’s gathered evidence that the head of Iowa Workforce Development has pressured judges to rule against employees hoping to receive unemployment insurance benefits.  

John Pemble / IPR

  Last week was another deadline at the Iowa statehouse for lawmakers to get more laws through committee so they can be debated on the floor.   


The head of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee says the CIA improperly accessed computers used by congressional staff.  What comes next?

Voice of America

Russian President Vladimir Putin put 150,000 Russian combat troops on high alert, rattling nerves in an already unstable Ukraine.  The move along Ukraine's border caused U.S.

Greg Wass

Iowan Sean Strub has lead a distinguished career as a gay rights activist and advocate for people with HIV/AIDS.  He founded POZ Magazine, designed to serve those living with the disease, a community he knows very well since he has been living with HIV since 1980.

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In about two weeks, the first of at least six Republican primaries will feature establishment Senate incumbents versus Tea Party challengers. Host Ben Kieffer and political analysts look at these primaries and the GOP’s bid to retake the U.S. Senate.  Also, A U.N. panel accuses North Korea of crimes against humanity, and Ukraine erupts again.  Guests are Dennis Goldford, Professor of Politics at Drake University and Jim McCormick, Professor and Chair of Political Science at Iowa State University.

Chuck Kennedy (Executive Office of the President of the United States) / White House image, public domain

President Obama stepped to the podium to deliver his 2014 State of the Union address against a backdrop of low approval ratings, a stagnant Congress and the term “lame duck” increasingly being used to describe his presidency.  The State of the Union is often seen as an opportunity to press the reset button.  But, an analysis of the list of priorities requiring Congressional action unveiled in 2013 shows only two measures winning approval.  This may have been what prompted the President to say h

Ann Althouse / flickr

Iowans gathered for caucuses Tuesday night, not to determine who will win nominations for President, but to determine who will control the parties.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with University of Iowa Associate Professor of Political Science Tim Hagle, and Drake University Professor of Politics, Dennis Goldford about how the midterm caucus results may impact the higher profile Presidential caucuses in two years.  They also discuss Iowa's political leverage to reverse an EPA decision reducing the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline under the Renewable Fuel Standard.

Creative Commons

"When we talk about leadership, we often think that it's entirely under control of the individual," says Hans Hassell, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Cornell College.  But in reality, "It's not necessarily Boehner's leadership style that's causing the problems, it's the political environment."  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Hassell, David Andersen, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University and Steffen Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University.  Recent stories about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as well as revelations

John Pemble / IPR

Governor Terry Branstad outlined legislative and spending priorities in his annual Condition of the State address in the House chamber at the Iowa State Capitol.  He is proposing measures to attract veterans, prevent bullying and expand broadband access in the state.  Host Charity Nebbe talked with Chris Larimer, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Northern Iowa, IPR's Clay Masters and listeners about what was and was not included in the speech.

Thiago Pompeu

For this News Buzz show, Ben Kieffer talks with a variety of guests about new jobs numbers, the 51% four-year graduation rate at the University of Iowa, Matt Schultz running for congress, the Director of Iowa's Public Health Department resigning, new rules for teen drivers, concerns about ice on the Missouri River, an ice fishing update, and the remarkable beginning for ISU Cyclone men's and women's basketball.

John Pemble

Taped on Tuesday 12/17/13 as part of the IPR Insight Series, this is a special edition of River to River with NPR’s Don Gonyea, recorded before a live audience in Des Moines. Host Ben Kieffer asks Gonyea about the 2013 political year, his career, and his connection to Iowa. IPR also tests Gonyea’s Iowa knowledge with a bit of trivia.

Top five moments and quotes from the night:

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Every presidency ebbs and flows.  President Obama seems to be going through an ebb, as his job approval rating drops to the lowest of his presidency.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with presidential historian Tim Walch, former Director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum and Donna Hoffman, Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science at University of Northern Iowa, about the ebb and flow of presidencies through history, and what they can tell us about presidential popularity today.

David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

Getting “primaried” has become a dreaded verb in politics. Host Ben Kieffer talks  about intraparty rivalry and the partisan rancor in Washington with former U.S. Congressman Jim Leach. Also, analyst Jim McCormick of Iowa State University joins the conversation with a wide array of policy discussion and political philosophy.

Vaguely Artistic

In this off, off-year election local issues and races were the only things on ballots across Iowa. But, a few of those local races drew a lot of outside money and attention.  Host Ben Kieffer talks with Chris Larimer, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Northern Iowa and Tim Hagle, Associate Professor of Political Science at University of Iowa about whether outside interest groups influenced local races. We also look beyond Iowa’s borders at what gubernatorial races in Virginia and New Jersey may tell us about the current state of our politics and parties.

Stephen Matthew Milligan / Wikimedia Commons

$81-million Bond Referendum approved for court services in Polk County

Iowa City bars will remain 21-only after 10 p.m. 

Cedar Rapids approves Local Option Sales Tax for road repair


Amid allegations that the U.S.

The partial government shutdown the country just came out of is often compared to the face-off nearly 20 years ago between President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. This News Buzz edition of River to River looks at the aftermath of the latest clash, compares it to what happened in the 90’s, and examines how Iowa and national politics have changed since then.  

We also hear about the World Food Prize ceremony this week and the protests associated with it.  And, a unit with the Iowa National Guard had a homecoming this week. Plus, Willie the pig has been captured.