King unflinching, determined after narrow House win

DES MOINES (AP) — After eking out a narrow election victory after allegations he had met white supremacists, Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King promised Wednesday to even more forcefully state his views in the future, saying his “head is bloodied but unbowed.”
The victory over Democrat J.D. Scholten came amid outcry over his association with white supremacist groups, which he says is false, and his hardline views on immigration, abortion and gun rights. King, 69, claimed his reputation has been sullied by these election attacks.
“I’m going to march through this. I’m going to take on all charges, take on all challengers. We’re going to fight to put this record in order,” he said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
King said he appeared to be cruising to an easy victory, with some polls showing him 20 points ahead. He said unexpected attacks began after news reports surfaced in September and October about his stance on immigration — he was described in one as “the most anti-immigrant member of Congress” — and a trip he took to Austria and his meeting there with members of the Freedom Party, which is associated with a man once active in neo-Nazi circles.
Organizations and individuals stirred by the allegations poured money into the Scholten campaign, giving it millions of dollars for television ads.
“I don’t know if anybody in America has taken that kind of nasty, negative, dishonest attack and withstood it,” King said.
Since he’s had no need to run television ads in previous elections and hasn’t had to raise money like other candidates, his campaign wasn’t prepared to match the onslaught . He estimated he spent around $130,000 for advertising this campaign against Scholten’s millions.
Scholten’s campaign did not immediately respond to messages.
King also vowed he’ll no longer passively allow news media or opponents mischaracterize his statements or take them out of context.
“That’s something I’m changing,” King said. “I have refused all these years to defend myself of these baseless charges. I will be defending myself.”
He banned Iowa’s largest newspaper from his election night events in Sioux City. King’s son, Jeff King, said the campaign denied credentials to The Des Moines Register and “any other leftist propaganda media outlet with no concern for reporting the truth.”
Steve King said he’s hesitated to hold previously announced town hall meetings because opponents like to hijack them for their own publicity, but he plans on doing them again.
King, a construction company owner, began his career in politics in 1996, when he was elected to the Iowa Senate. He was re-elected in 2000 but opted to run for an open seat in Congress in 2002 created through redistricting and has served the rural, agricultural 4th District since.
Since first winning election to the U.S. House, King’s vote total has dipped below 60 percent only twice. He defeated Scholten on Tuesday with just 50 percent of the vote.
As a state senator, he’s credited with drafting the Iowa law that is considered one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the nation because it bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It has been repeatedly challenged in the courts, but advocates hope it will be the case that finally leads to the reversal of legalized abortion in the U.S.
His firm belief on abortion is one of the reasons he believes wealthy donors from the East and West coasts wanted to defeat him.
“If they think this is going to intimidate me into backing off of these values we believe in, they’re going to find out otherwise day by day and day a night because it never was about a political position,” he told supporters Tuesday night. “It was always about a conviction and a calling.”

Reynolds points to economy but Hubbell notes continued needs

DES MOINES (AP) — Republican Kim Reynolds won her first full term as governor Tuesday, beating Democratic businessman Fred Hubbell to become the first woman elected governor in Iowa.
Reynolds became governor in 2017 after Terry Branstad was named ambassador to China. She had previously won two terms as lieutenant governor.
In her campaign, Reynolds pointed to Iowa’s low unemployment rate and her support of legislation that lowered taxes, expanded mental health options and sought to outlaw most abortions.
She overcame a challenge from Hubbell, who argued Reynolds had poorly managed the state and had wasted taxpayer money on corporate tax breaks. Hubbell also criticized Reynolds for her support for privatizing Iowa’s Medicaid system for poor and disabled people.
Although the $18 million raised by Hubbell was a record for an Iowa gubernatorial candidate, that figure includes $6.4 million of his own money. Reynolds raised nearly $11 million.
Reynolds portrayed herself as a fifth-generation Iowa resident from a working-class family who, as a teenager, worked as a waitress at a department store restaurant and as a grocery store checker.
Reynolds, 59, was a four-term county treasurer and served a partial Iowa Senate term before joining Branstad’s ticket in 2010. She served as his lieutenant governor from 2011 until May 2017, when she became governor.
She was elected on a day Iowans also sent two women to the U.S. House for the first time, handing defeat to two incumbent Republican men.
Iowa election officials said the state broke the record for mid-term election absentee ballots with more than 538,000 votes cast before Tuesday. The previous record was 2014 with 475,402. The vote totals were also expected to be a record for a mid-term election.

Reynolds wins nail biter

IOWA CITY (AP) — Democrats in Iowa captured a majority of the state’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in Tuesday’s midterms for the first time in years, but Republicans were trying to keep their grip on state government.
Republicans were hoping to prevail in close races to maintain control of the governor’s office, the Legislature, the secretary of state and the agriculture secretary.
Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds and Democrat Fred Hubbell were locked in a tight race. With most of the votes counted, Reynolds held a slim lead late Tuesday.
Reynolds, the longtime lieutenant governor who was elevated to governor last year, was seeking a full four-year term as Iowa’s first female chief executive. Reynolds has told voters that Iowa is moving in the right direction and frequently touts its “No. 1 state” ranking by U.S. News and World Report.
Hubbell, a businessman and philanthropist from one of the state’s most prominent families, sunk $6.4 million of his own money into his first run for public office. Hubbell argues that the state has gone too far to the right and is underfunding public education and mismanaging programs like Medicaid.

Iowa voters gave Democrats control of at least three of four of the state’s seats in the U.S. House.
In northeastern Iowa’s 1st Congressional District, Democratic state Rep. Abby Finkenauer ousted Rep. Rod Blum, a Republican.
Finkenauer became the second youngest woman elected to Congress at age 29. Blum, a businessman and strong supporter of President Donald Trump, was hampered by a House ethics investigation into one of his companies to win a third term.
In Iowa’s 3rd District, GOP Rep. David Young also lost his bid for a third term. The former aide to Sen. Chuck Grassley was defeated by Democrat Cindy Axne, a former state government official who had run on health care and agricultural issues.
Rep. Steve King was leading late Tuesday in conservative northwestern Iowa’s 4th District in his bid for a ninth term in Congress, despite his reputation for making inflammatory remarks about race and supporting far-right political movements. Democrat J.D. Scholten ran an aggressive campaign, seeking an upset that would reverberate nationally.

Voters appeared ready to deliver mixed results in three other statewide races.
Democrat Deidre DeJear, 32, a former campaign organizer for President Barack Obama, had been seeking to become the first black woman elected to statewide office in Iowa. But she was trailing Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate, who championed the state’s new voter identification law. DeJear had argued the law disenfranchises many voters, while Pate says that it ensures election integrity.
In the auditor’s race, Democrat Rob Sand, a 36-year-old former prosecutor, defeated the incumbent Mary Mosiman, whom he argued had gone too easy on government corruption. The win cements Sand’s status as a rising star in the party. Mosiman had argued that Sand isn’t qualified for the position because he’s not a certified public accountant.
Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig was also locked in a tight race in his bid for a full four-year term after his appointment in March. Naig, a Republican who has received backing from the Iowa Farm Bureau, was leading Democrat Tim Gannon, a farmer and former USDA official.

Republicans were trying to hang on to the large majorities they won in the 2016 election.
With control of both houses, GOP lawmakers approved laws that eliminated collective bargaining rights for most public workers, expanded gun rights, cut taxes and enacted the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban.
The Legislature also passed a requirement that voters show identification at the polls, but those without one Tuesday could cast ballots by signing an oath attesting to their identities.
Democrats were trying to reduce the Republican majority, with the GOP holding 29 of 50 seats in the Senate and 58 of 100 House seats.

Path to power: House races to watch on election night

Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — The path to power in the House runs through a few dozen districts in Tuesday’s election , with Republicans defending their majority and Democrats looking to gain 23 seats they would need to win control.
After the first polls close in the Eastern United States, the tallies will start revealing clues to where Americans stand in 2018 on immigration, health care, gender equality in the #MeToo era — and who they want representing them in Washington during the next two years of Donald Trump’s presidency.
Some races to watch for those keeping score, listed in order of poll-closing times:
The ruby-red state known for the Derby and sweet bourbon is hosting one of the most competitive and expensive races in the country. The Lexington-area battle pits third-term Republican Rep. Andy Barr against Democrat Amy McGrath, a retired Marine fighter pilot. Trump won the 6th District by more than 15 percentage points in 2016. But with the help of carefully shaped campaign ads that went viral, McGrath holds the edge on campaign fundraising.
Polls close at 7 p.m. EST
Rep. Dave Brat won his seat after upsetting House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the 2014 Republican primary. Now, it’s Brat’s turn to fight for re-election to the Richmond-area district against Democrat Abigail Spanberger, a former CIA officer who is one of a record number of women running for Congress this year.
Polls close at 7 p.m. EST
North Carolina’s 9th District became a key election bellwether when the Rev. Mark Harris narrowly ousted three-term Rep. Robert Pittenger in the GOP primary, giving Democrats a wider opening in solidly red territory. Democrats answered with Dan McCready, an Iraq War veteran, solar energy company founder and Harvard Business School graduate. Trump won the district by 12 points and a Democrat hasn’t been elected to represent it since John F. Kennedy was president.
Polls close at 7:30 p.m. EST
It’s a rematch in central Ohio’s 12th District between Republican Troy Balderson and Democrat Danny O’Connor. Balderson won short-term control of the seat in August during a special election after Republican Pat Tiberi retired. Republicans in the district appear divided over the president, making the seat vulnerable to a Democrat who, like O’Connor, has supported some Republican ideas. He’s engaged to a Republican who calls herself a “Dannycrat.”
Polls close at 7:30 p.m. EST
National Republicans and Democrats are pouring major resources into the Miami-area 27th District seat, held since 1989 by retiring Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. The Democratic nominee , Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala, has ramped up her Spanish-language advertising and Hillary Clinton campaigned for her. But she’s facing a stiff challenge from her Republican opponent, Maria Elvira Salazar, a Cuban-American and former broadcast journalist who, unlike Shalala, speaks Spanish. Though Trump won Florida in 2016, Clinton won this congressional district by nearly 20 points.
Polls close at 8 p.m. EST
Along with California and Pennsylvania, suburb-filled New Jersey is a key battleground for House control. Two seats are open, vacated by veteran Republican Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Rodney Frelinghuysen , and could fall to the Democrats.
Keep a close eye on the 3rd District south of Trenton, which twice voted for President Barack Obama but went for Trump by about 6 percentage points. Fighting for re-election is Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur, who helped strike a deal that pushed the GOP’s “Obamacare” repeal bill to House passage (it failed in the Senate). His Democratic opponent is political newcomer Andy Kim, a National Security Council staffer under Obama who has worked in Afghanistan.
Polls close 8 p.m. EST
Democrats have particular reason to believe they can flip as many as six seats in the Keystone state. A state Supreme Court decision in January threw out 6-year-old congressional district boundaries as unconstitutionally drawn to benefit Republicans. The replacement districts approved by the court’s Democratic majority have created more competitive contests.
One key race is playing out in the Philadelphia suburbs. Freshman Republican Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, has a centrist voting record and has explicitly tried to put distance between himself and Trump. He’s facing Scott Wallace, a longtime Democratic Party donor who was co-chairman of the Wallace Global Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that supports liberal social movements. He’s heavily funding his campaign and outspent Fitzpatrick nearly 5-to-1 in the July-September quarter.
Polls close at 8 p.m. EST.
Trump and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi loom large over a race in Northeastern Kansas. That’s where Democrat Paul Davis, the former state House minority leader, and Republican Steve Watkins, an Army veteran and engineer, are battling for the seat vacated by retiring Democratic Rep. Lynn Jenkins. Davis has said he would not support Pelosi for speaker if Democrats win the House. And Republicans were hoping that Trump’s visit to Topeka last month would boost Republican Steve Watkins, who has faced questions over claims he made about his qualifications and background.
Polls close 9 p.m. EST
Four House seats could flip from one party to the other in this traditionally Democratic stronghold.
For evidence of Democratic gains, look to the state’s booming suburbs. Clinton won Minnesota’s 3rd District west of Minnesota by 9 percentage points. GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen is under heavy pressure from Democrat Dean Phillips there. Paulsen avoided Trump’s recent rally in Rochester and his rally this summer in Duluth, and he has said he wrote in Marco Rubio’s name in the 2016 election. Still, Trump endorsed Paulsen last month.
Polls close 9 p.m. EST
The open 2nd District seat left open by Republican Rep. Steve Pearce, who is running for governor, offers a look at how the parties fare along the border with Mexico, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans. Pearce attracted support from Hispanics and the region’s oil and gas interests. But the race between Democrat Xochitl Torres Small and GOP opponent Yyvette Herrell has focused on hot-button issues such as immigration and guns. Torres Small has raised more than five times the campaign cash drawn by Herrell.
Polls close 9 p.m. EST.
This deep-blue state offers a look at how race and Trump’s clout are playing out in the president’s home state.
North of New York City in the 19th District, an ad released last month by the Republican National Congressional Committee showed clips of Democrat Antonio Delgado performing songs from his 2006 rap album under his stage name, A.D. The Voice. Delgado, a Rhodes scholar and Harvard Law School graduate, said his opponent, Rep. John Faso, was using racial attacks to alienate him, a black first-time candidate in a district that is more than 90 percent white. Voters there are evenly split among Democrats, Republicans and independents, and went twice for Obama but favored Trump.
And in the Buffalo-area’s 22nd District, first-term Rep. Claudia Tenney, an early Trump supporter, is drawing comparisons to the president by brashly suggesting some people who commit mass murders are Democrats and promoting a petition to lock up Clinton. But in a close race against Democrat Anthony Brindisi, she’s shifted to a softer tone of bipartisanship. Brindisi, a state assemblyman, argues that Tenney’s hyper-partisan approach undermines her claim of working across the aisle. Trump beat Clinton by nearly 16 percentage points here.
Polls close 9 p.m. EST.
One Iowa race offers a test of whether a Trump-style advocate for immigration limits can win.
Republican Rep. Steve King is keeping a low profile in his bid for a ninth House term, his success suddenly in question after he was engulfed in controversy for his support of white nationalists. But Democrats, already hoping to flip two other seats among Iowa’s four-person delegation, have a tough road to success in the 4th District that voted for Trump by 27 percentage points. In an unusual move, the GOP’s campaign chief condemned King the week before the election, but it’s unclear whether the criticism will boost his Democratic opponent, J.D. Scholten.
Polls close 10 p.m. EST.
Democrats have targeted a string of Republican-held districts in California that carried Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
One such battleground in the nation’s fruit-and-nut basket, the Central Valley, is where Republican Jeff Denham is trying to keep Democrat Josh Harder from taking his job. Fallout from Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings and fights over health care and immigration have produced a tossup race where Democrats count a slender registration edge. Denham, a centrist who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, won re-election by 3 percentage points in 2016, while Clinton won the district with about 49 percent of the vote.
In another test of GOP clout in a rapidly diversifying district, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s re-election is in question for the first time in 30 years. A wave of new and more diverse residents and divisions over Trump and the #MeToo movement against sexual misconduct have produced a strong challenge from Democrat Harley Rouda. The district went to Clinton in the 2016 presidential contest.
Polls close at 11 p.m. EST.
Southwest Washington’s 3rd District offers a test of whether the tea party-driven GOP House takeover in 2010 survives. Republican Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, first elected that year and twice re-elected with more than 60 percent of the vote, has been out-raised in campaign funding by Democrat Carolyn Long. Herrera Beutler has broken with her party on such issues as health care. But Long has emphasized her credentials as an outsider. The district stretching east along the Oregon border voted for Trump by 7 percentage points.
Polls close at 11 p.m. EST.
For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections:

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

Iowa, New York home to winning Powerball tickets

Associated Press
NEW YORK — The co-owner of a Manhattan deli where someone purchased one of two Powerball tickets that hit the $688 million jackpot said he likely sold the winning ticket, but he has no idea who won.
Jose Espinosa and his father own the West Harlem Deli, which lottery officials say sold a ticket that matched all six numbers in Saturday night’s drawing for the fourth-largest lottery prize in U.S. history. The ticket holder will split the winnings with whoever purchased the other winning ticket from a convenience store in a small Iowa town.
While helping a steady stream of customers Sunday, the 41-year-old Espinosa joked that he knows he sold the lucky ticket because he’s always working: “I’m always here. I live here.” But he doesn’t know who bought it.
“It wasn’t me,” said customer Jose Humphreys, a 45-year-old pastor at a nearby church. “But hey, if somebody hit the lottery and they wanted to donate to our church, we would in no way refuse it.”
The other winning ticket was sold at Casey’s convenience store in Redfield, Iowa, a rural community of about 800 people roughly 35 miles west of Des Moines. A clerk who answered the phone at the store Sunday declined comment and referred questions to lottery officials.
There was no immediate word on who purchased that ticket, either. But both ticket holders beat miserable odds: The chance of winning the Powerball jackpot is 1 in 292.2 million.
Lottery officials said the ticket sold in Iowa marks the largest lottery prize ever won in the state.
“Even we are awestruck,” Iowa Lottery CEO Terry Rich said Sunday. “This goes to show what we’ve said many times: You never know when the next big winner will hit.”
Rich said anyone who played Powerball in the past few days should double-check their tickets. The winning numbers were 8, 12, 13, 19 and 27, and Powerball 4.
Jackpot winners can’t remain anonymous in Iowa or New York, and lottery officials encourage winners — who have a year to come forward — to first consult a financial adviser.
The drawing came four days after someone won a $1.54 billion Mega Millions jackpot, which marked the nation’s second-largest lottery prize ever. That ticket was sold in South Carolina, where lottery winners can remain anonymous.
Saturday’s Powerball jackpot was originally estimated at $750 million but worked out to $687.8 million by the time of the drawing. That’s the annuity total, which would be paid out over 29 years. The cash value, or lump sum, is $396.2 million before taxes.
The exact jackpot is determined by sales figures where tickets are sold. Officials note that the reason jackpots grow so dramatically when prizes get enormous is because people who don’t normally play decide to buy a few tickets. That’s great for lottery sales but makes it more difficult for officials to estimate how many irregular players will participate, adding further complications to the jackpot estimate.
Powerball is played in 44 states, Washington, D.C., the U.S Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Mega Millions players ponder how to spend the record $1.6B prize

CHICAGO (AP) — With the Mega Millions lottery jackpot at a record $1.6 billion, people are snapping up tickets across the U.S.
The Powerball jackpot also has climbed. It’s up to an estimated $620 million for Wednesday’s drawing. That would make it the fifth-largest jackpot in U.S. history.
But much of the focus has been on Tuesday’s Mega Millions drawing and what would be the largest jackpot prize in U.S. history.
From San Diego to New York, people are dreaming of how they would spend the money should they beat the astronomical odds of winning.
Little Rock, Arkansas, housekeeper LaCrystal White initially said her first order of business would be to pay off bills and student loans, then buy herself a house and car. But the 34-year-old quickly reconsidered.
“Well, first I’m going to give something back to charity. That’s what I’m going to do,” White said. “I am. I’m going to give back to charity and then I’m going to splurge. Put up college funds for my kids and just set myself up for the rest of my life.”
Then she told everyone who was at the gas station where she bought two Mega Millions tickets on Sunday that she would give them $1 million each if she won. She went on to add that she planned to buy more tickets later.
Arkansas is one of 44 states where the Mega Millions is played. It’s also played in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Nathan Harrell was in downtown Chicago for work Saturday when he stopped in at a 7-Eleven and handed the clerk two $20 bills — one for 10 Powerball tickets at $2 each and the other for 10 Mega Millions at $2 each. It’s been a few years since he’s spent anything on the lottery.
“It’s gotta be in the news for me to think about it,” the 36-year-old, who works in finance and lives on the city’s north side, said.
He said he and his wife have talked over the years about what they’d do if they won, and she said she’d keep working. “So she probably wouldn’t want me to quit my job,” he said.
Harrell said that as he rode the train to work, he had thought about what else he would. He figures he’d set up a trust fund for his two children.
“We wouldn’t sweat the small stuff anymore,” he said. “Nothing crazy, but who knows.”
In Phoenix, Tim Masterson, a 41-year-old scientist, ran into Kings Beer & Wine, an upscale convenience store and beer bar, to buy seven Mega Millions tickets while his family waited in the car outside.
Masterson paused when asked what he’d do with the money if he won. After looking at the wide variety of beers and ales on the shelves, he said: “I’d buy a brewery.”
Nebraska mom Michelle Connaghan said she had mentioned the huge Mega Millions jackpot to her children, which led to a discussion of what the family would do with all that money.
“Other than paying off bills and taking care of family, I think I’d have the most fun going around and doing surprise good deeds for people,” said Connaghan, 48, as she picked up pizza for her family and a Mega Millions lottery ticket at an Omaha convenience store. “I think that would be wonderful, to have the ability to help somebody who really needs it.
“And I’m sure we’d take some pretty awesome vacations while we were going around doing our surprise good deeds.”
In New York City’s financial district, Juan Ramirez, 69, said he would retire from at least one of his jobs. He works as a school maintenance worker and shorter order cook.
“I’d spend it carefully. I’d be prepared before I cash in, go see a financial adviser,” he said, saying he would invest the money.
“I’ve got two jobs. I’d retire from one, maybe two. When I win the billion dollars, I will decide which one to quit.
“I would donate some money to charity, think about the homeless, people with less than me. I would help somebody.”
Guillermo Carrillo, 42, of San Diego, works as a roofer and as a dishwasher at a restaurant.
Carrillo, who was buying tickets in suburban National City, dreams of buying a house for his mother in his native Guatemala. Then he would give money to each of his five sisters — also in Guatemala — to spend however they like. His five brothers would get nothing, he said.
For himself, he would buy a house in the San Diego area and replace his old pickup with a new one in his preferred color, red. He would also travel. Tops on his list are Paris, Spain, the ruins in Machu Pichu, Peru, and, of course, Guatemala.
“It’s a lot of money and I hope we win,” he said.
Dan Higgins isn’t typically a lottery player, but he decided to give it a try as he grabbed a coffee at a 7-Eleven in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston on Sunday.
“When it gets over a billion dollars it becomes compelling, so for $2 to potentially get $1.6 billion, that would be a pretty nice return on that investment,” said Higgins, 51, who lives in nearby Brookline.
First on his agenda, should he win: putting in his two-weeks’ notice at his sales job. Other than that, he says he would take care of the education of his two kids, who will be entering college soon.
“That’s obviously an awful lot of money, so I would really just help out my family in any way I could and probably buy a big house on the ocean somewhere.”
At an Exxon store in Nashville, Tennessee, clerk Quin Newsom said nearly everyone who comes in is buying a Mega Millions ticket — including herself.
Asked what she would do if she won, the 22-year-old said, “I would split it with my co-workers. We’re going to retire from here. And then I’d go to the Bahamas.”
Beyond that: “I would invest in something, to keep the money rolling in. … You gotta think with it.”
Earl Howard, a lifelong New Yorker, said he plays the lottery “anytime it’s big,” even though he has never won anything. The odds of winning the Mega Millions grand prize are about one in 302 million.
“I’m still gonna do it. It doesn’t matter what the odds are. You got to be in it to win it, and if you don’t try you won’t succeed,” Howard said while shopping at a 7-Eleven in Brooklyn.
Asked what he would do with the money, Howard said: “Move out of New York. Take care of my mother and my kids and my wife. That’s it. Save the rest. Nobody won’t know I won.”
Contributing to this report were Associated Press reporters Hannah Grabenstein in Little Rock, Arkansas, Sara Burnett in Chicago, Anita Snow in Phoenix, Margery Beck in Omaha, Neb., Ron DePasquale and Julie Walker in New York, Elliot Spagat in San Diego, Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston, and Travis Loller in Nashville, Tenn.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

Court: IDOT officers limited to commercial vehicle offenses

Associated Press
Iowa Department of Transportation officers overstepped their authority in arresting or issuing speeding tickets to drivers outside of the regulation of commercial vehicles, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.
The ruling could have implications in a pending class-action lawsuit that seeks to recoup the fines and legal fees of thousands of motorists ticketed by Iowa carrier enforcement officers in recent years.
Friday’s finding came in separate 2016 cases in which lower courts split on the issue, with Iowa County judges finding that carrier enforcement officers did have such authority, while a judge in Polk County ruled that IDOT officers did not.
On Friday, the state’s high court deemed that Iowa law allowed the officers to make arrests and issue tickets only for violations relating to operating authority, registration, size, weight and load of commercial vehicles — not for other traffic violations.
State law changed in May 2017, temporarily giving IDOT officers the authority to ticket drivers of noncommercial vehicles until July 2019.
The cases decided Friday involved the ticketing in 2016 of Rickie Rilea and Timothy Riley in separate stops for speeding. Both challenged the authority of a carrier enforcement officer to issue speeding tickets. Polk County District Judge Eliza Ovrom agreed in 2017 that the department officers lacked that authority, and IDOT appealed.
In a separate case, Jeremy Warner appealed after judges in Iowa County District Court sided with the department after he was arrested in 2016 and later convicted of driving while his license was suspended.
In arguing both cases, attorneys for the department said a segment of Iowa law pertaining to “peace officers” gave its officers the authority to arrest and ticket drivers outside of carrier enforcement. IDOT attorneys also argued that even if the courts found that law didn’t convey that authority, state law would allow department officers to make “citizen arrests.”
The high court rejected both arguments, citing its 1948 ruling in a case that limited the scope of the department’s policing powers to commercial vehicle regulation. Peace officers don’t get to claim “private person” status for the purpose of arrests, the high court said, adding that nothing in state law allows private citizens to issue traffic citations.
A spokeswoman for the department said state officials are disappointed with the ruling, noting that carrier enforcement officers go through the same law enforcement training as state troopers, sheriffs and police officers.
“This is something that will have to be decided by the Legislature in the next legislative session,” IDOT communications director Andrea Henry said Friday. “We truly feel that public safety is best served when all trained peace officers are able to respond to traffic events that occur in their presence.”
Des Moines attorney Brandon Brown, who represented all the drivers cited by carrier enforcement officers, said he plans to resume work on the class action lawsuit, which was stayed pending the outcome of the legal challenges.
If he prevails, the state could be on the hook for millions of dollars in fines and legal costs for motorists ticketed in recent years. The statute of limitations on such claims would restrict those who could seek repayment to those ticketed within the last five to six years, Brown said.
“We maintain that the state of Iowa has been unjustly enriched by issuing speeding tickets to tens of thousands of people in violation of the law,” he said.
Brown’s research has turned up more than 22,000 drivers ticketed by IDOT officers outside of carrier enforcement from 2014 through 2016, and the average ticket amount came to about $150, he said. That’s more than $3.3 million in fines for the two years.

Landowners’ lawsuit over Dakota Access heads to appeals court

Associated Press
BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota landowners who unsuccessfully sued the developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline for allegedly underpaying for land easements are maintaining that not all of their claims should have been thrown out by a federal judge.
Attorneys for the 21 landowners are scheduled to take their argument before an 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel in St. Paul, Minnesota, on Thursday. They want the case sent back to federal court in North Dakota to resolve at least some of the claims.
The landowners sued in January 2017, alleging a company formed by Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners and a hired land acquisition consulting business used deception to acquire private land easements for the $3.8 billion pipeline built to move North Dakota oil to Illinois. They sought more than $4 million in damages.
U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland a year ago sided with the defendants. He ruled that the landowners had failed to prove their claims, in part because fraud-based claims under federal court rules require a higher standard of proof. Hovland said the plaintiffs “clearly failed to specifically allege who made the fraudulent statements, when the statements were made, and to whom the statements were made.”
The landowners in their appeal maintain that not all of their claims were based on alleged fraud.
“Proving harassment, threat, intimidation, misrepresentation, deception or any other unfair tactic allows plaintiffs to proceed with a case under a lesser pleading standard than the fraud pleading standard,” landowner attorney Peter Zuger said in court documents.
Defense attorney Amy Miller disagreed in court documents.
“A plaintiff cannot convert a fraud claim into a general grievance by simply omitting any explicit reference to fraud,” she said.
The landowners maintained that their compensation for allowing the pipeline to cross their land was as much as nine times lower than what other landowners got. They also alleged they were told that if they didn’t agree to the offered amount, they faced losing money or getting nothing either because their land would be condemned through eminent domain or the pipeline would be moved elsewhere.
The landowners who sued represent only about 3 percent of the 800 North Dakotans who provided easements for the pipeline, according to Energy Transfer Partners.
The pipeline has been moving North Dakota oil through South Dakota and Iowa to a shipping point in Illinois since June 2017.

In Iowa debut, Booker tells Dems to turn despair into action

Associated Press
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker urged Democrats disappointed by Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to turn their despair into action as he made his national debut in Iowa as a Democratic presidential prospect.
Racing from Saturday afternoon’s Senate confirmation vote in Washington, Booker breezed into the Iowa Democratic Party’s top fall fundraiser to try to make a positive impression on roughly 1,000 party activists. He is visiting the early presidential testing ground this weekend as he weighs a campaign for the 2020 Democratic nomination.
“I see the pain and the hurt, but I want to remind everyone here in this room tonight, full of fellowship, this room full of faith, that this is a time in our country when we need to stay faithful,” Booker told the audience at a convention center in downtown Des Moines. All but one Democratic senator voted against Kavanaugh, who was confirmed 50-48.
Booker’s appearance was not just a seminal moment for the 49-year-old former mayor of Newark. He is also the party’s biggest name to make a foray into the first-in-the-nation caucus state, where so far lesser-known, would-be candidates have been working to get a head start.
The tall former Stanford University football player strode into the ballroom and straight to a table of several family members. His late grandmother Adeline Jordan grew up in Des Moines, where Booker still has family.
Pivoting from anecdotes about his upbringing in New Jersey, Booker turned toward Democrats’ disappointment not just with the Supreme Court confirmation, but with a long list of Trump administration policies.
“I see a lot of folks caught up in a state of sedentary agitation,” he warned. “This is not a time to curl up. This is not a time to shut up. It is not a time to give up.”
Booker’s delivery toggled between soft and reflective to bellowing, like an evangelical minister. Several times he brought the audience to their feet.
After the speech, Booker downplayed the potential boost to Democrats the disappointment over the Kavanaugh confirmation could provide in November’s midterm elections, when Democrats are in position to retake the House.
But that dismissal defied the message in his speech.
Booker urged Democrats, who also are poised in Iowa to make gains in statehouse and congressional races next month, to keep their frustration focused on activism.
“I ask you how long until we turn the tide of division and despair,” Booker shouted over the applause. “I want you to know, not long. Because it’s not long until November.”
Having raised his national profile in recent weeks by seeking a prominent role during the Kavanaugh hearings and appearing on The Tonight Show, Booker also has quietly been making important contacts in Iowa.
Helped by Des Moines Democratic powerbroker Jerry Crawford, a top adviser to Hillary Clinton in 2008 and 2016, Booker met last summer with Iowa lawmakers in Newark.
In Iowa on Sunday and Monday, he is attending public political events with local party groups and candidates for statewide office.
Among them is Deidre DeJear, who would be Iowa’s first African-American nominee for statewide office. DeJear, who is running for Iowa secretary of state, has met with Booker in Washington and Atlanta in recent months at party conferences and meetings for black Democrats.
“I’m attracted to leaders who care,” DeJear said. “He’s one of those senators. His presence helps elevate this race.”
Other big-name Democrats weighing the 2020 race have steered clear of Iowa so far, such as former Vice President Joe Biden, who has said he expects to decide whether to run by January.
In a sign of her potential interest in a presidential bid, California Sen. Kamala Harris sent a staffer from her office to work on the campaign of Iowa Democrat Abby Finkenauer, who is running in Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. It’s common for presidential prospects to put aides to work on midterm campaigns in Iowa to acquire experience in the state’s party workings.

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press.

Farm bureau unveils limited health plan that cuts costs

DES MOINES (AP) — Health coverage offered by the Iowa Farm Bureau through a new option approved by the Iowa Legislature will allow people to be turned away if they have pre-existing conditions.
The farm bureau unveiled details of its health coverage Wednesday, about seven months after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law that promises to lower costs by skirting requirements of the federal Affordable Care Act.
The farm bureau’s plan isn’t considered insurance, meaning it won’t be regulated by the Iowa Insurance Division or be bound by federal regulations.
Applicants will be asked if they have been diagnosed or treated for a variety of ailments, including diabetes, heart problems or mental issues, according to The Des Moines Register. Farm Bureau Vice President Steve Kammeyer said the organization will be free to reject applicants or charge them more money, unlike standard health insurance offered through an Affordable Care Act exchange.
The farm bureau promised premiums would be “much lower” than comparable insurance plans that comply with the ACA but didn’t provide specific figures. The organization said its plans would cover maternity services, mental health care and prescription drugs.
To enroll in the plan, people will need to join the organization and show they don’t qualify for insurance through their employers and a government plan, such as Medicare and Medicaid. The farm bureau plans will be sold through insurance agents, and they will be administered by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield.
Former Iowa Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss said she’s concerned about the plan’s lack of oversight and was skeptical about how it will compare to traditional insurance. Wellmark is overseen by regulators.
“I just think there are a lot of holes in it,” Voss said.
Iowa Insurance Commissioner Doug Ommen said he supports the farm bureau plans.