Kate Payne


Kate Payne is an Iowa City-based reporter and a co-host of Iowa Public Radio's podcast Caucus Land. Kate has won Regional Edward R. Murrow awards for her feature reporting and her sound editing. Her political reporting has been featured on Morning Edition, All Things Considered and The NPR Politics Podcast. She's been a guest on MSNBC, CBSN, KQED, WGBH, CapRadio, WYPR and New Hampshire Public Radio.

She is a proud North Florida native and a dyed-in-the-wool hand talker.

Send tips, recipes and road trip ideas to kpayne@iowapublicradio.org.

Kate's favorite public radio program is Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo

Iowa businesses, school districts and citizens continue to respond to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. We'll be posting updates as more news regarding the spread of the virus in Iowa becomes available here for the week of March 29-April 4. 

doctors office
Jennifer Morrow / flickr

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics can now run its own COVID-19 testing in-house. Hospital officials say the step will help free up other testing resources across the state, which are integral to responding to the disease. Public health officials say testing is critically needed in order to gauge the disease’s spread and respond to it, and the development comes as the country faces a nationwide shortage of testing supplies.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

The Iowa Department of Public Health is directing essential employees to keep working, even if they have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19. The recommendations come as the number of confirmed cases in the state continues to increase and as officials scramble to secure adequate supplies of personal protective equipment or PPE.

Jason Farrar/Flickr Creative Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Advocates across the country are raising concerns about the potential that a COVID-19 outbreak could hit a jail or prison and spill over into the general public and the broader healthcare system. Now some groups are calling on Iowa to follow steps taken by other states to drastically reduce the number of people behind bars in order to slow the spread of the virus.

Matt Rourke / AP Photo

Iowa businesses, school districts and citizens continue to respond to the escalating COVID-19 pandemic. Updates and news regarding the spread of the virus in Iowa for the week of March 15-21 are available here. 

Courtesy: Cedar Rapids Police

The cold case murder of Cedar Rapids teenager Michelle Martinko went unsolved for decades, until last month, when prosecutors won a guilty conviction by relying on a 40-year-old crime scene and a family genealogy website. It’s one of the first cases of its kind to go to trial but it’s raising questions about ethics and legality.

Stephen Cummings / Flickr

Iowa’s state parties will hold their county conventions later this month. The events come at a time when most Democratic caucusgoers’ preferred candidates have already dropped out.

Tom Sparks/Flickr creative commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

The chair of the Nevada Democratic Party is calling for that state to consider ending its caucuses. The statement comes as there is increased scrutiny of the Democratic nominating process. Iowa and Nevada are not the only states with caucuses, but they are the most high profile, with Iowa's first-in-the-nation contest, and Nevada coming third in the overall nominating calendar. If Nevada were to move to a primary, it could put even more pressure on the Hawkeye State.

Courtesy: Linn County Attorney's Office

After nine days of testimony and legal arguments, and more than 40 years of unanswered questions, Jerry Lynn Burns has been found guilty of killing Cedar Rapids high schooler Michelle Martinko, who was found stabbed to death in her family’s car outside the Westdale Mall in 1979. A jury of seven women and five men handed down the unanimous verdict Monday afternoon in Davenport after about three hours of deliberations. New developments in forensic DNA analysis and a family genealogy website led investigators to Burns. It’s one of the first cases of its kind in the country to go to trial.

Courtesy: Linn County Attorney's Office

The defense team for Jerry Lynn Burns rested its case Thursday, posing questions about whether key DNA evidence is simply circumstantial. The 66-year-old Manchester, Iowa man faces a first degree murder charge in the 1979 killing of Cedar Rapids high schooler Michelle Martinko, who was found stabbed to death in her family’s Buick in the parking lot of the Westdale Mall.

Linn County Jail via AP

Prosecutors in the trial of Jerry Lynn Burns rested their case Wednesday. Burns is suspected of killing high schooler Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids in 1979 and he faces a first degree murder charge.

Courtesy: Linn County Attorney's Office

Jurors in the case of a man accused of killing 18-year-old Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids in 1979 heard from the suspect himself Tuesday. Prosecutors played a covertly recorded interview that investigators conducted with Jerry Lynn Burns in December of 2018. A jailhouse informant also testified in the case Tuesday.

Courtesy: Cedar Rapids Police

A witness testified in Davenport Monday that DNA from the suspect in a 40-year-old murder case is “consistent” with DNA found on the dress the victim was wearing when she died. The testimony from a forensic DNA analyst came in the case of Jerry Lynn Burns, who faces a first degree murder charge for the killing of Michelle Martinko in Cedar Rapids in 1979.

Courtesy: Cedar Rapids Police

Jurors heard opening arguments at the Scott County Courthouse Wednesday in the case of a man accused of killing a Cedar Rapids high school student more than forty years ago. Jerry Lynn Burns faces a first degree murder charge in the 1979 killing of 18 year old Michelle Martinko, a killing that stunned Cedar Rapids residents and has been seared into the memories of some for decades.

The long-idle cold case was revived in recent years when investigators turned to newly-developed techniques for DNA analysis. That forty-year old evidence now forms the foundation of the case against Burns.

Troy Price, chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, addresses reporters in Des Moines to explain the delay in releasing the initial results of the 2020 Iowa Caucus.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Troy Price has announced he will resign from his post. The announcement Wednesday comes in the wake of a historic caucus night fiasco, in which the party’s results reporting system was hamstrung by a series of critical failures. Results in the first-in-nation contest were delayed for days, and were riddled with errors when they were ultimately released, renewing calls for the state to lose its privileged status in the presidential nominating contest.

Natalie Krebs / IPR File

There are still no official results out of the Iowa Democratic caucuses as of Tuesday, even as New Hampshire voters go to the polls for that state’s first-in-the-nation primary. Even without finalized results, presidential campaigns and politicos are turning their attention away from Iowa. 

John Pemble / IPR File

Persistent errors and inconsistencies in the Iowa Democratic Party’s caucus night precinct results are raising questions about the overall accuracy of the first-in-the-nation contest and preventing the Associated Press from declaring a winner, a week after Iowans first pledged their support for their candidates on Feb. 3. 

Caucus Meltdown

Feb 6, 2020

The 2020 Iowa Democratic caucuses devolved into chaos when the system for reporting results failed. Technical issues, human error and reporting inaccuracies delayed the outcome for days, and the repercussions are still playing out. On the twentieth episode of Caucus Land, we take a look at the app that broke the caucuses and how Iowa Democrats are responding.

Kate Payne/IPR

The Iowa Democratic Party launched a new caucus night reporting app this cycle, hoping it would make the process easier, faster and less prone to human error. But the app ended up doing just the opposite. Combined with an overwhelmed backup reporting system, results out of the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses were delayed for hours. The IDP released the first set of results at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, but did not specify when the full tally could be complete.

John Pemble / IPR

The head of the Iowa Democratic Party says the party is manually verifying the results of Monday night’s first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. 

With caucusing beginning, questions continue to swirl about the system in place for individual precincts to report their results to the state party.

Iowa Public Radio and NPR were the first to report last month that the state party would be using a new smartphone app to transmit results.

Kate Payne / IPR

There was a moment on caucus night of 2016 when Tom Carsner started to panic.

“I was doing pretty good until I walked out the door,” he laughed nervously,” and saw the line going all the way to the Statue of Liberty….then I said, oh, and maybe a few other words.”

Carsner was in charge of precinct 17 at City High School in Iowa City. The line of people waiting to get into their caucus site stretched out the door and down the hill some 500 feet away.

“Well…we had 935 people, the largest in the state,” he said.

Clay Masters / IPR

Pollsters behind the Des Moines Register/CNN Iowa Poll have decided not to release the results of its final, highly anticipated survey before the Iowa caucuses.

The release of the poll was canceled Saturday night after former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign raised concerns that his name was not included in at least one phone call.

What started as the largest and most diverse crop of Democratic presidential candidates in history has been cut down substantially ahead of the February 3rd Iowa caucuses. But it’s not just Iowa that’s winnowed the field. On the nineteenth episode of Caucus Land, we’ll talk about how we got here and what it could mean for the future of the Iowa caucuses.

Clay Masters / IPR

Massachusetts Senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren has won the endorsement of the Des Moines Register’s editorial board, a little over a week away from the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. The recognition from the state’s largest newspaper is major win in a crowded race, and sends a strong message to likely caucusgoers, many of whom remain undecided.

Every four years, people have to basically relearn how the Iowa Democratic caucuses work. This year, a slate of new rules means caucus night could get even more confusing, and campaigns will have more ways than ever to spin the results out of Iowa. On the eighteenth episode of Caucus Land, we’ll break down what actually happens on February 3rd. Plus, conversations with two candidates: former Vice President Joe Biden and billionaire Tom Steyer.

Tom Sparks/Flickr creative commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

Iowa Democrats have until Friday to preregister to caucus this February as part of the state party's new early check-in process.


Six Democratic presidential candidates faced off at a debate at Drake University in Des Moines Tuesday, less than three weeks ahead of the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. 

Iowa's Democratic Party plans to use a new Internet-connected smartphone app to help calculate and transmit results during the state's caucuses next month, Iowa Public Radio and NPR have confirmed.

Party leaders say they decided to opt for that strategy fully aware of three years' worth of warnings about Russia's attack on the 2016 presidential election, in which cyberattacks played a central role.

There are plenty of critics of the Iowa caucuses. This year, there's pressure from insiders and outsiders to change the process. On the seventeenth episode of Caucus Land, we'll talk about why some of those changes haven't happened with Lauren Chooljian, a host of the New Hampshire Public Radio podcast Stranglehold. Plus, conversations with two candidates: former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg and entrepreneur Andrew Yang.