Joyce Russell

Correspondent

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.

kim reynolds
John Pemble/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds fended off a vigorous challenge from Democrat Fred Hubbell Tuesday to win her first election to the state’s highest office.   

Iowans generally elect their governors by wide margins.  Not so this year, with Reynolds defeating Fred Hubbell roughly 50 to 47 percent.  Hubbell was able to keep the race close by running up big vote totals in Iowa’s urban centers.  Reynolds won 88 of Iowa’s 99 counties.

In a raucous victory speech to supporters in Des Moines seconds after midnight, Reynolds said she’s proud to be Iowa’s first female governor.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa 4th District Republican Congressman Steve King this week defended the far-right Freedom Party in Austria against any hint of anti-Semitism, in spite of the party’s historical Nazi ties.   And he stood by his recent activites in  Austria during a recent trip to Europe sponsored by a Holocaust memorial group. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Angry protesters greeted Iowa 4th District Congressman Steve King today, who spoke as part of a candidate forum at the Greater Des Moines Partnership downtown.  

"Drop Steve King," the protesters chanted as a crowd gathered to hear King speak.

Activists point to last weekend’s mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, and they say the shooter’s white supremacist views echo those of Congressman King.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

A crowd of several hundred gathered early in the morning at Jethro’s Barbecue in Waukee last Wednesday, waiting to send off Gov. Kim Reynolds' "Keep Iowa Moving" bus tour.

To a chant of "Kim, Kim, Kim,"  Reynolds waved and smiled and hugged those nearby, then hopped on a chair for the  first delivery of a speech that would be repeated at dozens of rallies around the state. 

She says wages are going up, taxes are going down, and her Democratic opponent, Fred Hubbell, is not the answer.

Joyce Russell/IPR

On the west terrace at the State Capitol last week, a crowd gathered to send off the Democratic nominee for governor, Fred Hubbell, on his last major campaign swing across Iowa.  

One of the first to arrive at the rally was Dylan Gramwich with the Laborers’ International Union.  They’re  working hard for Hubbell after recent GOP initiatives they say harmed unions.

“Ever since the primary we’ve been doorknocking and everything we can," Gramwish said.  "It’s  been pretty bad the last couple of  years so we're hoping we can get that turned  around."

Joyce Russell/IPR

More Iowans may end up available to serve on juries through a project underway at the Iowa Judicial Branch aimed at making jury pools more inclusive.  

The Committee on Jury Selection wants to ensure that African-Americans and other minorities are fairly represented.   

State court administrator Todd Nuccio says to broaden the jury pool, they hope to tap lists of Iowans registered with the Department of Revenue, in addition to the current lists from voting rolls or driver’s licenses.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Racial profiling by Iowa law enforcement was under discussion Tuesday at the annual Summit on Justice and Disparities, sponsored by the NAACP.   The gathering focuses each year on the disproportionate presence of African-Americans in Iowa’s Criminal Justice System.  

Held on the Ankeny campus of Des Moines Area Community College, the program included panels on getting more black people on juries, disrupting the school to prison pipeline, and racial profiling by police.  

Courtesy: Iowa State Daily

In Story County District Court today, District Judge Bethany Currie set a January 15th trial date for 22-year old Collin Richards.

Richards was living in a homeless camp in Ames on September 17th when he is alleged to have attacked 22 year old ISU student Celia Barquin Arozamena as she was playing a round of golf at Clearwater Links near the university campus.

The champion Big 12 golfer and engineering student from Spain was stabbed to death.  Her body was found in a pond nearby.

Rodney White/Des Moines Register

Gov. Kim Reynolds and Democratic candidate for governor Fred Hubbell took questions on a wide range of issues in their first debate Wednesday, sponsored by KCCI-TV and the Des Moines Register.    They weren’t shy about challenging each other’s positions and moderators had some trouble keeping the crowd out of the debate.   

Excitement ran high outside the debate venue on the Ankeny Campus of Des Moines Area Community College, where competing crowds chanted in favor of Hubbell and Reynolds.     James Stauch of West Des Moines had this advice for the Democratic challenger.

Joyce Russell/IPR

By federal order, Iowans will soon have another health insurance option that won’t be subject to the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.   It’s called short-term limited duration insurance.  Some critics see it as another way for the Trump administration to kill Obamacare by a thousand cuts.   Now  Iowa’s insurance commissioner is at odds with a statehouse committee over what kind of consumer protections to require.     

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Republican Party of Iowa featured their Ways and Means Chairman from the Iowa Senate today to criticize the Democratic candidate for governor’s expressed views on tax policy.

Gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell is on record criticizing government spending on corporate tax credits.   But for a news conference at RPI headquarters in Des Moines,  Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Sioux City, put together a list of the millions in tax breaks Hubbell Realty and other Hubbell concerns have received over the years.  

Kate Payne/IPR file

Three Iowa lawyers and a prosecutor in a conference call today questioned the legitimacy of Gov. Kim Reynolds' appointment of new 6th District Judge Jason Besler.   They predict that Besler’s rulings will be subject to appeal.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board today threw out ethics complaints against Gov. Kim Reynolds for accepting gifts of free flights on private jets, including a trip to a bowl game in Memphis last year.   

Since May of 2017, in nine instances the Reynolds campaign traveled on private planes. and reported it as in-kind campaign contributions.     

Board Chairman James Albert questioned the board’s attorney Megan Tooker about precedent for such free travel.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds this week defended her appointment of 6th District Judge Jason Besler, following questions about whether it met a constitutional deadline. 

The governor must make a judicial appointment by 30 days after names are submitted to her.  If the deadline is not met, the constitution requires the chief justice to make the appointment instead.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Democratic Party of Iowa today accused Gov. Kim Reynolds  of corruption in office for taking campaign contributions from one of the managed care organizations that are  benefiting from the privatization of Medicaid services in Iowa.    

According to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Finance Board, the political action committee for Anthem, Inc., the parent company of Amerigroup, has given $2500 this year to the Reynolds campaign.  A contribution of $1500 arrived on August 22, two days before contracts were signed with the private firms.

John Pemble/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ office is defending a recent judicial appointment, after a Democratic blogger claimed the governor missed the deadline for selecting a new district judge.

According to Bleeding Heartland, there is no written confirmation that Reynolds selected Jason Besler for the 6th district judgeship by 30 days after his name was submitted to her.

According to the Iowa Constitution, if the deadline is missed, the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court makes the selection instead.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Senior Legal Counsel and special adviser Sam Langholz told a conservative crowd in Urbandale today that the election for governor this year could affect the makeup of the Iowa Supreme Court for decades to come.      

Langholz spoke to about 50 people at a breakfast meeting of the Westside Conservative Club at the Machine Shed restaurant.

He cited recent court decisions that conservatives opposed, and suggested that future appointees could mean different results. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Democrat J. D. Scholten who’s running for Congress in Iowa’s 4th  District says incumbent Republican Steve King is abdicating his leadership by declining his invitation for three campaign debates.  

SalFalko/flickr

A nearly six-year-old lawsuit challenging Iowa’s program for keeping sex offenders confined after they serve their prison terms has been dismissed by a federal judge in Sioux City.  

U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett ruled against patients in the Civil Commitment Unit for Sexual Offenders, or CCUSO, housed at the Mental Health Institute in  Cherokee.  

An offender is assigned to the program after a civil court deems him or her to be a risk to society.    But there have been civil rights challenges here and elsewhere.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds today defended her call for immigration reform following the killing of University of Iowa student Molly Tibbetts, allegedly by a man federal officials say is an undocumented Mexican immigrant.  

Following the discovery of the victim’s body, President Trump, Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, and Gov. Reynolds all issued statements highlighting the immigration status of Cristhian Rivera who is jailed on a first degree murder charge.    

Mrs. Gemstone/flickr

A qualified voter in a special schoolboard election in Washington County Tuesday was turned away at the polls, and election officials are promising better training in the future about Iowa’s new voter ID law.   

Susan McClellan arrived at the polling place in Wellman for the Mid-Prairie School Board election without her driver’s license.  

For this year, Iowa’s new voter ID law requires poll workers to ask for an ID, but to offer the voter the option of signing an oath of identification instead.

Rich Mason/flickr

Some Iowans who registered to vote this summer and received their voter registration cards in the mail are about to receive a second mailing with updated cards. 

That follows a court ruling directing the secretary of state not to distribute materials that say an ID is required to vote this year.    

Plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the law complained that the secretary of state’s office was distributing materials saying voter identification is required at the polls this year, when that’s not required until next year.    

SOMANEDU/flickr

Iowa’s elementary and high school students will be taking brand new standardized tests this school year.   They will take the place of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, otherwise known as the Iowa Assessments, that students have taken for decades.    

The new tests will help meet new state and federal requirements, but they’re still under development and that makes some educators nervous. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

A new state board held its inaugural meeting today charged with developing a statewide system for children’s mental health.   The Children’s State Board made up of educators, law enforcement, human services officials, and others is the result of an executive order earlier this year from Gov. Reynolds. 

Communities across the state are plagued with a shortage of crisis care, child psychiatrists, and psychiatric hospital beds for kids.  

John Pemble/IPR

The Republican candidate for Congress in Iowa’s 2nd district spoke from the Des Moines Register Soapbox Friday, calling the incumbent “a nice guy but part of the status quo.”

Iowa city physician Christopher Peters hopes to unseat six- term Democrat Dave Loebsack. 

Peters said he would have voted differently from Loebsack on a host of issues, from health care to banking reform. 

He brings his medical expertise to the campaign.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Vice President Mike Pence rallied Republican voters in Des Moines today at a roundtable event sponsored by a pro tax-cut group known as “America First Policies.” 

In a rousing 30-minute speech to a first-come, first-served crowd of about 250, Pence criticized the Washington media and recited what he sees as the accomplishments so far of the Trump administration.  

That includes record tax cuts, exiting the Paris climate accords, and a crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

Burlington Hawk Eye Newspaper

A federal judge in Davenport Tuesday ruled that body camera video and other evidence in a 2015 Burlington police shooting should be made public.

Thirty-four-year-old Autumn Steele was shot and killed by officer Jesse Hill after responding to a domestic abuse call at her home.

The Burlington Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have resisted release of the video.

Under Judge James Gritzner’s ruling, the city of Burlington will have 14 days to propose redactions to be approved by the court before the information is made public.

John Pemble/IPR

Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate brought his re-election campaign to the Iowa State Fair Tuesday, taking his turn on the Des Moines Register’s Political Soapbox.  

As the state’s chief elections officer, Pate said Iowa has registered a quarter of a million new voters during his time in office, aided in part by a new online voter registration system.   He said the state ranks among the top in the nation for voter participation and registration.   Also, 17-year olds can now register and vote in primary elections.

Iowa Democratic Party

The annual veterans parade at the Iowa State Fair turned controversial Monday when a Democratic veterans group was barred from the event.   

The Iowa Democratic Veterans’ Caucus was initially issued credentials from the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs through what organizers call a clerical process.   But when the organizers reviewed the applications late last week, they recinded the credentials for the IDVC.  

Daniel Gannon is part of the informal group of organizers he calls the Iowa State Fair Veterans Committee.  He says they’ve always banned political groups.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa 2nd District Congressman Dave Loebsack warned state fairgoers Monday that if Republicans retain control of the U.S. House, there will be a renewed attempt at entitlement reform directed at the nation’s senior citizens.     

Loebsack was first elected in a Democratic wave in 2006 after President George W. Bush’s plan to privatize social security failed to advance. 

“It crashed and burned due to bipartisan opposition,” Loebsack said from the Des Moines Register Soapbox at the fair.  

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