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2014: The Year in Politics

John Pemble
Iowa Public Radio

In 2014, Gov. Terry Branstad won an unprecedented sixth term as Governor of Iowa, and Iowans elected the state’s first woman to Congress when Republican Joni Ernst won her seat in the U.S. Senate. 

Drake University political scientist Dennis Goldford says Republican Joni Ernst’s election to the U.S. Senate was the biggest political story in Iowa in 2014. “This was a huge story because Joni Ernst is the first woman in Congress for Iowa…A lot of democrats assumed that there would be a Braley coronation when Harkin announced his retirement.”

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with Goldford and Tim Hagle, an associate professor of political science at the University of Iowa about the year in politics. Here’s what we thought the biggest stories were:

Branstad Wins Sixth Term as Governor

“The funny thing about it is that it should be a bigger story than it actually is. The race was not all that exciting; it wasn’t particularly close from the outset. It just didn’t resonate with anybody, so it’s just kind of a walk. But, it’s a huge accomplishment for Branstad to get that sixth term.” – Tim Hagle

David Young: The Luckiest Man in Iowa

“David Young is a very nice guy, but he is also the luckiest man in Iowa. He was the last man standing when nobody else won the 35% they needed to win the primary. Now, Brad Zaun has talked about introducing a bill to change the way we select candidate. That particular race reflected that you didn’t have a strong top of the ticket. Also, midterm elections favor Republicans.” – Dennis Goldford

This was a referendum on the President. It was kind of funny that he had said, "this will be a referendum on me." - Fmr. Rep. Greg Ganske called into the show today to comment on the results of the midterm election

 Republicans Dominate Midterm Elections; Is Iowa Still a Purple State?

“It was a bit of a surprise that Blum won in the 1st District. Given that that was Braley’s seat…he just wasn’t able to pull his candidate, Pat Murphy, along. But you can’t just look at the Congressional delegation. It’s still going to be a purple state, we’ve still got a split legislature. Even though Branstad has won election and re-election, there is still potential. ” – Tim Hagle

Tom Latham and Tom Harkin Retire

“Latham with Republican control of the house had pretty good seniority, and he was very close to those in the Republican leadership in the House. Now that’s gone. In the Senate, Harkin had incredible seniority and could have been a ranking member. But it’s on to a new era. It goes back to that question: who is Joni Ernst and what are her priorities? It’s not going to be Tom Harkin’s legacy.” – Dennis Goldford

Controversy Over Race Relations Erupts Across the County

“This is a tough problem to talk about. There have always appeared to be unjustified police reactions; we still talk about Rodney King in my classes. Maybe he didn’t do the right things, but he certainly didn’t deserve the beating he got. When you talk about these cases, it becomes a very complex problem because you have to talk about other race questions. Our view is always changing as to what is good and what is bad.” – Tim Hagle

ISIS Gains Influence in the Middle East

“We live in a tough, dangerous world. Republicans always claimed that Democrats were soft on foreign policy. What we have here is the Obama Administration trying to navigate a dangerous world. It’s hard to say who he (President Obama) satisfied in that regard.” – Dennis Goldford

CIA Releases Torture Report

“There may be a few instances when this is still going to come up; I don’t think the issue has been totally settled. Anytime you are coming close to a line, sometimes you are going to have people cross that line. If this comes up again…history will tell.” – Tim Hagle

Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River