Clay Masters

Morning Edition Host

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter. He also covers environmental issues.

Clay joined the Iowa Public Radio newsroom as a statehouse correspondent in 2012 and started hosting 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 Lincoln, Nebraska where he worked for Nebraska’s statewide public radio and television network.

He’s also an occasional music contributor to NPR’s arts desk.

Clay’s favorite NPR program is All Things Considered.

Clay Masters/IPR

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris was in Des Moines Monday night just a day after kicking off her 2020 campaign for president.  Harris embraced many progressive policies during a town-hall style event broadcast live on CNN.  

Harris answered questions from an audience at Drake University in Des Moines. She says she will not vote for a wall along the southern U-S border under any circumstances. Harris was asked by a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals recipient how she would protect people like her and their families.

John Pemble / IPR file

It's week three of the 2019 Iowa legislative session and there are plenty of issues to watch. IPR's Clay Masters spoke with state government reporter Katarina Sostaric.

Clay Masters/IPR

J.D. Scholten, the Democrat who came within three points of beating Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King in November, announced Wednesday he’s starting a non-profit to help raise awareness for the Earned Income Tax Credit.

“We want to create partnerships with groups like AARP and United Way and elected officials and religious groups and other groups who are focused on helping low-income Iowans with their taxes,” Scholten said at an Iowa Capitol news conference.

He didn’t rule out a run for office in 2020.

Clay Masters/IPR

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made her first trip to Iowa after announcing she’s considering a run for president in 2020, which included a speech at the state’s Women’s March. Bitter cold temperatures and an overnight snow storm moved Iowa’s Women’s March indoors at the state Capitol.

Sen. Gillibrand told those gathered that President Trump has inspired a lot of hate and division.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa lawmakers will gavel in Monday to kick off the 2019 legislative session. It’s the third legislative session in a row with full Republican control of the statehouse.  Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver. R-Ankeny, says his members are excited to build on their accomplishments of the past two years.

“Just because it’s been done a certain way for 20 or 30 or 40 years, doesn’t mean it needs to be done that way for the next 20 or 30 or 40 years,” Sen. Whitver says.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Progressive billionaire activist Tom Steyer came to Iowa Wednesday announce he will not run for president. The former hedge fund manager instead says he will put another $40 million into his “Need to Impeach” group which pushes support for impeaching President Donald Trump.

“Most people come to Iowa around this time to announce a campaign for the presidency,” Steyer told reporters in Des Moines. “But I’m proud to be here to announce that I will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes to remove a president.”

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR file

In the fall, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds was elected to her first full four-year term. She says she still plans to meet with her Democratic opponent Fred Hubbell, whom she beat by 3 points. IPR's Morning Edition Host Clay Masters and State Government Reporter Katarina Sostaric sat down with Gov. Reynolds Thursday ahead of the legislative session, which begins on January 14.

Clay Masters / IPR

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is finishing up her first trip to Iowa since her New Year’s Eve announcement that she is considering running for president in 2020. Iowa is the first state in the nation to hold its caucuses.

The Democratic senator talked a lot about the federal government investing too much in America’s wealthy and well-connected at her events in Council Bluffs, Sioux City and Des Moines. She called for big structural changes in Washington, the economy and politics.

Sen. Warren told crowds Saturday she’s working on building a grassroots team early.

John Pemble / IPR file

Iowa’s first two congresswomen were sworn into office Thursday in Washington D.C. and one of their first votes in the U.S. House of Representatives was to re-open the government. U.S. Reps. Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne defeated Republican incumbents in November.

As of Friday, the federal government has been partially shut down for 13 days because of President Donald Trump’s call for funding a wall along the U.S. southern border. 

Clay Masters/IPR

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg packed a lot into his one-day trip to Iowa as he considers a run for president in 2020.

Bloomberg, who registered as a Democrat in 2018, visited an solar power company and a community college before speaking to a local chapter of the gun-control group Moms Demand Action in Des Moines. Tuesday night he attended a preview of the documentary “From Paris to Pittsburgh,” a climate change documentary he financed, which was partially shot in Iowa.

Joyce Russell/IPR file

Iowa’s outgoing state auditor says the Department of Human Services is correctly calculating the savings from having private companies manage Iowa Medicaid. But the lawmaker who asked for an audit says the report doesn’t provide good answers.

The management of Iowa Medicaid was handed over to private companies in 2016. Auditor Mary Mosiman, a Republican, says the state’s estimate of $126 million in savings this year, as of early November, is accurate.  In May, the state projected $141 million in savings, nearly triple last December’s projection of $47 million.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa’s incoming state auditor says his first priority when he takes office in January is to look at where things are in a state audit of Medicaid. That’s the government health insurance program for low-income and disabled Iowans. The privatization of Medicaid’s management was a dominant issue in the governor’s race. Rob Sand was the only Democrat elected in a statewide race to replace a Republican incumbent. He says he doesn’t know the status of the audit but will meet with the current auditor after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Clay Masters/IPR

Acting U.S. Attorney General Matt Whitaker was in his home state of Iowa Wednesday giving a speech and meeting with local law enforcement. His trip comes as a U-S Justice Department memo says his appointment to replace former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is legal.

Whitaker was chief of staff to former Attorney General Sessions.

John Pemble / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds has been elected to her first full term in the job last night. She narrowly defeated Democrat Fred Hubbell by three percentage points. In the state legislature, Republicans retained control of both the Senate and the House. But Democrats had some highlights Tuesday night.  The party now holds three out of four U-S House districts in the state. IPR’s Clay Masters speaks with University of Northern Iowa Political Science Professor Chris Larimer about what the results might indicate about Iowa.

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

The majority of states hold partisan elections for the person who also oversees the state's elections. The secretary of state, as the role is often called, is the chief election official and in most places that person is a Republican. As some Republican-led states have adopted strict voting laws, Democrats have made many of those races a priority this year.

Amy Mayer/IPR file photo

When former Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey was tapped for a federal job with the U.S. Department of Agriculture last year, his old job was filled by his deputy secretary of agriculture, Mike Naig.

Last spring, Naig ran for the Republican nomination in a crowded primary but did not win outright and later secured the nomination in a convention vote. Naig faces two challengers.

Who are the candidates?

John Pemble/IPR

The race for Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District is close between incumbent Republican David Young and Democrat Cindy Axne.  Libertarians have gained major party status in the state and Bryan Jack Holder is running in the 3rd District race. IPR's Clay Masters asked Holder what he thinks the most important issue for voters is in the district and he says it’s the economy. 

Clay Masters/IPR

The Democratic senator who gained national attention during the hearing for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is making several stops in the state that kicks off the presidential nominating process. Sen. Kamala Harris of California campaigned for several Democratic candidates in Iowa, including the secretary of state nominee Deidre DeJear. Harris told a rally for Polk County Democrats in Des Moines Monday evening this election requires Americans to look in a mirror and ask “who are we” and part of the answer she says is, “better than this.”

John Pemble/IPR

David Young is a two-term Republican Congressman in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District and is in a tight race against Democrat Cindy Axne. IPR's Clay Masters started by asking the congressman what he’s hearing from voters in the district as the most important issue. He says it’s the economy.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Cindy Axne is a small business owner and is the Democrat running against Republican Congressman David Young in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District. For our ongoing series of talks with congressional candidates, IPR's Clay Masters started by asking Axne what she’s hearing from voters in the district as the most important issue. She says it's healthcare. 

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

The leading candidates in Iowa’s race to be the next governor faced off in the third and final debate Sunday morning in Davenport. With a little over two weeks left before Election Day, Kim Reynolds and Fred Hubbell sparred over a number of issues. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Republican Governor Kim Reynolds and her Democratic Challenger Fred Hubbell faced each other in an hour-long debate Wednesday night in Sioux City. The two talked about the state's privitized Medicaid, the budget and tax cuts. IPR's Clay Masters spoke with University of Northern Iowa Political Science Professor about the debate. 

Next month, 36 states will elect a governor. Nine of those races, where Republicans are in office, are so competitive that some analysts say they are a toss-up. Even though a Republican is in office now, the winner could come from either party.

Like in Iowa, where Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds can't seem to inch past her Democratic challenger, businessman Fred Hubbell, who has been polling several points ahead of her for months.

Clay Masters/IPR

President Donald Trump was in Council Bluffs Tuesday night to announce a regulatory change that would lift a ban on selling an ethanol-gasoline blend during the summer months. Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency prohibits the sale of gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol, commonly called E15, during the summer months.

“My administration is protecting ethanol,” Trump told the crowd gathered at the Mid America Center. “Today we are unleashing the power of E15 to power our country all year long.”

Clay Masters / Iowa Public Radio

Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ,  flew to Iowa to headline a Democratic fundraiser Saturday night fresh off the Senate’s vote to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sen. Booker, who serves on the Senate judiciary committee, says the process for confirming Kavanuagh was a sham. The senator is seen as a potential contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. Iowa is the leadoff state in the nominating process. But Booker focused on the midterm, telling the crowd not to be discouraged by any of the president’s actions.

John Pemble /IPR

Iowa Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is making the case she should be elected to her job for the first time in November. She took over when former Gov. Terry Branstad left office to be U.S. Ambassador to China in 2017. Reynolds, 59, served as Branstad’s Lt. Governor since he was voted back into office in 2010.

A recent Iowa poll shows Reynolds in a close race for the governor’s office against Democrat and retired businessman Fred Hubbell. Hubbell, 67, says a larger-than-expected budget surplus of $127 million shows Reynolds is doing a poor job of managing the budget.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell has been critical of the state’s budgeting practices under Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds. Hubbell, a 67-year-old retired businessman, says recent figures from the state revenue estimating conference are an indication of fiscal mismanagement. The $127 million surplus was larger than budget officials expected.

John Pemble/IPR

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Jake Porter was not invited to participate in the three debates between Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell. Porter says it’s too bad because he would’ve added to the conversation.

“We would talk about things that may get ignored now like criminal justice reform (and) things that often aren’t talked about,” Porter says. “Also, different ideas for the budget."

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

There’s a close race for governor in the state right now between incumbent Republican Kim Reynolds and Democratic challenger Fred Hubbell. With less than two months before the election, IPR Morning Edition Host Clay Masters dicsusses the status of the race with Des Moines Register Chief Politics Reporter Brianne Pfannenstiel.

Clay Masters/John Pemble / IPR

House Republicans running in tough races this fall have two choices when it comes to how they handle President Trump. Embrace him and hope that rallies Trump’s base to their side or stay away from the president and hope that will draw in more moderate and independent voters. Consider two incumbents in neighboring Iowa districts who are testing out these strategies.

When President Donald Trump came to Peosta, Iowa this summer he was on stage with the district’s two-term Republican Congressman Rod Blum.

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