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Civic Skinny

McCoy eyes John Mauro’s seat. Hagenow gets strong foe.

9/2/2015

State Sen. Matt McCoy, who has decided not to seek the Democratic nomination for Congress from the Third District, now plans to run for Polk County Supervisor in three years when John Mauro’s term is up. He admires Mauro — “an excellent supervisor, a mentor and, more importantly, a friend” — but thinks he won’t run again in the solidly Democratic district. Two problems with that: First, Mauro always runs again. Second, if Mauro doesn’t run, the line of south-siders wanting to succeed him could be long. At the head of it could be Mauro’s brother, Michael, the former secretary of state who now is the state’s labor commissioner, or City Councilman Joe Gatto. A primary would be bloody — but really interesting. …

Mauro, meantime, is spending almost full-time trying to figure out better ways to feed the county’s hungry. The county figures that around 55,000 of the 450,000 county residents go hungry at least part of the time. All five supervisors have signed on as they try to bring some logic and coordination to the scattershot efforts of public and private organizations — efforts that miss many of the hungry for lots of reasons: some of the 45 or so food pantries in the county aren’t on bus lines, some are open only limited hours, some have a hard time getting food, some are nowhere near where the hungry live, some are simply overwhelmed by demand, some are just poorly run.

The hungry are, by and large, the working poor — the families where a parent is working one or two jobs for a minimum wage that doesn’t come close to being enough to put food on the table three times a day, the families where the word breadwinner is a misnomer.

One key player in the effort: The Des Moines Area Religious Council, led by Sarai Rice.

The county is looking to build a distribution system, put pantries where the need is, find a central storage location, add mobile pantries and do anything and everything to get food to the people and people to the food.

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The effort will cost $10 million or more over the next few years, and Des Moines business leaders — some of whom are almost stunned by the need — are signing on to help financially without a whole lot of arm twisting. The goal: Make Polk County hunger-free.

The whole effort will go public in a few weeks. The data have been gathered. The infrastructure is being set up. The quiet asks for money are being made. The five supervisors — three Democrats and two Republicans — work together better than most governing bodies, be they political or so-called nonpartisan, so the effort, so far at least, is free of politics, grandstanding, and bickering. …

Zach Nunn, the Republican legislator from Altoona and the east side of Des Moines, endorsed Royce Turner, the at-large candidate for the Des Moines school board who is trying to unseat board president Cindy Eisbernd, and Turner put the endorsement on his Facebook page. Turner has also been endorsed by the teachers’ union. The problem: Nunn was part of the House Republican caucus that fought successfully for just a 1.25 percent increase in the so-called “allowable growth” for school funding this year, well below the 4 percent to 6 percent that schools (and Democrats) wanted. Someone must have figured out an endorsement like that isn’t going to please teachers, and the endorsement disappeared.

Turner has bigger problems, though. Saturday, The Des Moines Register reported that the state’s Public Defender’s Office terminated its contract with Turner “after he failed to appear in three criminal cases as the court-appointed counsel” last year. Reporters Mackenzie Ryan and Grant Rodgers also wrote that Turner claims that he volunteers with the public defender’s office — “though no such volunteer program” exists. Turner told the Register that none of this has any bearing on his candidacy. Voters will decide that. The election is next Tuesday. …

Jennifer Konfrst — whose last name could use another vowel or two — announced Friday she will seek the Iowa House seat now held by Chris Hagenow. Hagenow, a lawyer whom his fellow Republicans just chose as House Majority Leader, was first elected in 2008, beating Windsor Heights then-mayor Jerry Sullivan by 93 votes in kind of a nasty race. He won easily in 2010 — but barely survived a challenge in 2012. The 43rd district covers all of Windsor Heights and Clive and part of West Des Moines. As of Aug. 1, it had 7,493 registered Republicans, 6,682 registered Democrats and 5,897 independent voters.

Konfrst, who long worked at Iowa Public Television and who now is an assistant professor of journalism at Drake, understands politics. Her dad is Mike Glover, who retired as the chief political writer for the Associated Press in Des Moines and who knows as much about the Iowa Legislature as anyone, and her mother is Betty Glover, a Windsor Heights council member since 2009. Mike Glover now writes for the Iowa Daily Democrat, a blog.

It would be a huge embarrassment if the Republicans next year lost the seat of their new leader — and a huge plus for the Democrats if Konfrst won. So look for both parties to pour money into the race. Democrats cite the fact that three years ago Hagenow beat Susan Judkins by just 23 votes. They don’t mention that last year he beat Democrat Kim Robinson by about 1,600 votes. …

Federal Judge Mark Bennett just lost another round in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. After a trial in which he both praised (“a very skilled advocate”) and mocked (referring to “the Rambo litigation school”) lawyer June K. Ghezzi, Bennett went on to criticize out-of-state lawyers (she is from Chicago) and lawyers from large firms (she works for the huge Jones Day firm), saying they tried to present too many trial exhibits (“just because they had a lot of associates to keep busy”). He called Ghezzi’s objections “reprehensible,” and “frivolous.” Ultimately, he ordered her to prepare a video for everyone in her firm explaining the court’s opinion and in effect telling them how to behave in court. It was an “out of the box” sanction, he said.

Last week, a three-judge panel of the appeals court thought it was too far out of the box. They threw it out. Bennett, they said, abused his discretion as a federal judge. …

Josh Hafner, who had been covering politics and “young professionals” at the Register, has left the newspaper and joined the young professionals at Meredith’s Midwest Living…Reporter Katherine Klingseis also has quit the newspaper. The job was “so emotionally draining,” she says in a You Tube video. “I want to be happy, to find a career that I love doing.” Meantime, Gannett last week announced a buyout program for employees who are at least 55 years old and who have been with the company at least 15 years. …

David Stanley, the wealthy Muscatine man who seemed to love politics and hate taxes and who died last week at age 86, came close to being in the United States Senate. In 1968, he lost to Harold Hughes by 6,300 votes out of more than 1.1 million cast. In 1974, he lost to John Culver by about 40,000 votes out of 900,000 cast. In between those races, in 1970, he challenged incumbent Republican Fred Schwengel in a Congressional primary in eastern Iowa, but Schwengel won handily. CV

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