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Iowa’s close gubernatorial race: it all comes down to turnout

ANKENY, Iowa -- In the final hours before the polls opened on Election Day, Kim Reynolds and Fred Hubbell took their campaigns on one final lap to ensure as many of their supporters as possible commit to voting.

The campaigns’ get-out-the-vote operations likely will be crucial in what appears to be a very close race to be Iowa’s governor for the next four years.

Reynolds, the Republican who took the office a little more than a year ago, and Hubbell, the Democratic challenger, on Monday made their closing-argument pitches to supporters at rallies and voter turnout events throughout the day and across the state.

Polls have showed a close race. The Iowa Poll, the gold standard in Iowa political polling, showed Hubbell leading Reynolds by just 2 points, 46 percent to 44 percent, in a new poll published Saturday in The Des Moines Register. An Emerson College poll, published Friday, showed Reynolds ahead of Hubbell by 4 points, 49 percent to 45 percent.

Reynolds, joined by other statewide Republican candidates and traveling by private plane, held nine events Monday and traveled river to river in Iowa with stops in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Waterloo, Clear Lake, Fort Dodge, Council Bluffs and Sioux City before closing out the day in Sioux Center.

“Iowa is going in the right direction,” Reynolds told a few dozen supporters at the day’s kickoff event at the Ankeny airport. “And I believe that Iowans know that this is the team and this is the governor and the lieutenant governor that’s going to keep this momentum going and to continue to build on that success.”

Shortly after her small plane landed on a runway at Davenport Municipal Airport later Monday morning, Reynolds motored through a rally inside Carver Aero, a charter airliner, where roughly two dozen people welcomed her with waving campaign signs and applause. Reynolds encouraged the crowd to get out the vote, saying, “We need to sprint across the finish line,” and “let’s get ‘er done” on Election Day.

“I hope you can feel the optimism and the excitement from this group of public servants that want the opportunity to continue to serve you,” Reynolds said. “It is not the doom and gloom of the other party. (Democrats) are traveling the state, talking about Iowa’s going to heck in a handbasket and everything’s bad -- and that’s not reflective of what’s happening on this ticket.”

Reynolds plans to cast her ballot early Tuesday morning in her hometown of Osceola, according to her campaign.

Hubbell spent his final day of the campaign in Democratic strongholds in eastern and central Iowa. He appeared at campaign offices in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City and West Des Moines before finishing the day at an Election Eve rally in downtown Des Moines.

“We said from the very beginning we expect a very close race. But at the same time we’ve been working hard from the very beginning of this campaign to build a campaign that could win the primary, do well in the conventions and the caucus, and win the general election by appealing to voters all across our state,” Hubbell told reporters after rallying a few dozen volunteers at the West Des Moines canvass event. “We’ve been working all 99 counties and we want to pull Iowans together. We’re not trying to divide people. We want to be the governor and lieutenant governor for all Iowans, and I think people like that idea.”

Roughly 500 supporters attended Hubbell’s Election Eve rally in downtown Des Moines, according to the campaign. The event also featured the other statewide Democratic candidates and Hubbell supporters who spoke speaking about their dissatisfaction with private management of the state’s Medicaid program, state funding for mental health care programs, and the increasing cost of college and student debt.

“I am running to change the direction of our state and once again put people first,” told the enthusiastic crowd. “It’s time to stand united, turn this state around and get it going for all of us the right way.”

Hubbell plans to vote early Tuesday morning in Des Moines, according to his campaign.

Democrats already have more than 215,000 votes locked in as the party surpassed its previous midterm election early vote performance.

Democrats in 2014 cast 191,036 early votes; as of Monday, Democrats had cast 215,663 early votes, according to Iowa Secretary of State data. And that number does not include Monday, which was the last day for in-person early voting.

With Monday’s numbers still to be included, Republicans appeared on pace to submit roughly the same number of early votes as they did in 2014.

The polls will be open on Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. in Iowa.

Bill Lukitsch of the Quad-City Times contributed to this story.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 


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She’s got a doggone good idea
Le Mars middle school student comes up with doggone good idea
Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Brooklyn Bockelmann, a Le Mars, Iowa, eighth-grader, unpacks a pet oxygen mask kit during an interview at the Le Mars Fire Department. Bockelmann has been raising money to purchase pet oxygen masks for area fire departments and wants to raise enough money to buy masks for every fire department in Iowa.

LE MARS, Iowa -- To say Brooklyn Bockelmann loves dogs might be an understatement.

Dressed in leggings covered with dog images, socks that feature dogs and a hoodie promoting animal adoption, the 14-year-old Le Mars eighth-grader leaves no doubt about her love for dogs.

She knows that other people are just as crazy about their four-legged family members as she is and would be devastated if something were to happen to them. It's why Brooklyn is working to provide pet oxygen masks to every fire department in Iowa -- more than 600 -- so that firefighters can treat and revive pets rescued from house fires.

"If it has to do with dogs, I'm going to do it," said Brooklyn, who has a German shepherd named Bear and a German shorthaired pointer named Jake.

She's launched Operation O2 Fur Pets to raise money for her cause, which started with the modest goal of providing masks for the Le Mars Fire Department, then each department in Plymouth County.

"Once I got that done, I thought it would be a good idea to do it for all of Iowa," the daughter of Jennifer and Donald Bockelmann said.

Where does a middle schooler get the idea for such a project? Facebook, of course.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Brooklyn Bockelmann uses a stuffed toy dog to show how a pet oxygen mask fits on an animal. Bockelmann, a Le Mars, Iowa, eighth-grader, has been raising money since this spring to buy masks and donate them to fire departments.

Earlier this year, Brooklyn and members of the Stanton Lucky Clovers 4-H club had done random acts of kindness. Brooklyn enjoyed the community service project and wanted to do more. At about the same time, a news story popped onto her mother's Facebook page about a dog that had been saved in a California house fire by firefighters using a mask that had been donated by Girl Scouts there. Jennifer Bockelmann showed the story to Brooklyn, and the light bulb immediately lit up above her head.

"I thought this would be a good idea for our county," Brooklyn said.

The masks, sold by Wag'N O2 Fur Life, in Vancouver, Washington, sell for $90, plus $30 for shipping. How was she going to raise the money?

At a middle school dance this spring, she sold root beer floats and raised nearly $300. She bought chocolate paw prints and paw-printed bracelets, then sold them at Woofstock, a Plymouth County Historical Society fundraiser in the spring. She set up a GoFundMe site on the internet.

It didn't take long until she was able to buy masks to stock all of Plymouth County's fire and rescue services in Le Mars, Akron, Hinton, Kingsley, Merrill, Remsen and Oyens.

Goal achieved. But Brooklyn, who volunteers at Noah's Hope Animal Rescue in Sioux City and hopes to someday have her own doggie day care center, decided to keep going, setting her goal higher.

"I had money left over, and I just love dogs," she said. "I decided to do Iowa."

Brooklyn has continued to operate the GoFundMe site, and at the Plymouth County Fair this summer, she set up a booth selling bracelets and homemade dog treats. For a 4-H project, she did an educational presentation at the fair. Her presentation was chosen to advance to the Iowa State Fair, where she presented it again. She recently sent out fundraising letters to local animal-related businesses.

She's since donated masks to fire departments in Moville, Lawton and Sergeant Bluff, bringing the total to of masks given away to 12.

"I feel that everywhere there should be one of these masks," Brooklyn said.

Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal 

Brooklyn Bockelmann demonstrates on a stuffed toy dog how a pet oxygen mask is used. The Le Mars, Iowa, eighth-grader has raised money to donate 12 masks to area fire departments and hopes to raise money to donate them to every fire department in Iowa.

She's got her public awareness campaign down. According to Brooklyn's research, 40,000-150,000 animals die each year in house fires in the United States. She pulls out three masks from a kit and a stuffed toy dog to demonstrate how the masks fit over the animal's muzzle. Each kit contains large, medium and small reusable masks that can be used on animals ranging in size from ponies to gerbils -- even birds -- and just about everything in between.

Her daughter's passion for the project is not surprising, Jennifer Bockelmann said. Her desire to continue doing public service projects once her 4-H club had completed them showed her compassionate side.

"We're proud. I've seen her grow so much," Jennifer Bockelmann said.

For Brooklyn, she just wants to help spare other animal lovers the pain of losing a pet in a fire, an event that's already tragic enough.

"It makes me happy knowing that I'm saving someone (from) grief," she said.

She's got money on hand to buy three more masks, and two more fire departments have told her they'd love to have one.

If she had a tail, it would probably be wagging furiously with excitement, knowing that more firefighters will soon have another life-saving tool.

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Spectra says concert booking is picking up at Tyson Events Center

SIOUX CITY -- Spectra Venue Management representatives assured Sioux City Council members Monday that the Tyson Events Center is coming out of a concert drought.

Councilwoman Rhonda Capron raised concerns about a lack of events at the Tyson during an Oct. 1 council meeting. At the time, Capron said she was also "frustrated" about Spectra's lack of reporting to the council. Philadelphia-based Spectra has been managing the Tyson and the Orpheum Theatre since Jan. 1.

"We do hear you. Our No. 1 goal right now is bookings. We have a lot of activity that will pay off," Rick Hontz, regional vice president of Spectra, told council members during a progress report. "We believe once these events start hitting, we're going to be successful."

While Sioux City still owns the Tyson, and the Orpheum continues to be independently owned, Spectra is responsible for day-to-day operations, including booking, marketing, staffing, and food and beverage service. Spectra has projected it will reduce the city's subsidy at the Tyson by $270,000 in its first year through increased events and sponsorship revenue.

Tyson and Orpheum general manager Erika Newton, who formerly directed Sioux City's Events Facilities Department, said Spectra is "aggressively" working with the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on offers for multiple joint shows.


"There's no commitment to a certain number of shows. I went through a list of about seven or eight artists that we're looking at booking with Hard Rock. We'll see how many of them come through," she said.

Hontz added that Spectra and Hard Rock have already submitted four offers jointly. Newton noted that Feld Entertainment, a leader in producing and presenting live touring family entertainment, is back booking at the Tyson and Orpheum Theatre. She said Feld hasn't returned to Sioux City since it presented Disney On Ice in 2012.

"It's really good news that they're coming back to both the Orpheum and Tyson," she said. "They're going to start out with Sesame Street, I believe, in the Orpheum in 2019 and then they'll move into some Tyson shows into 2020 and 2021, as well."

Meghan Calvagna, director of partnerships, said Spectra has been able to bring in $201,150 in new revenue through creative and personalized packages to partners and has an additional $108,000 in pending sponsorships.

"We are continuing to work towards our pro forma budget and are currently sitting at $1,038,433 of our $1.2 million budget for partnerships," she said. "As everything's sitting right now, we are pacing to hit that budget."

Capron reiterated that she's "tired of lip service" and wants to see some action at the Tyson by the end of this year.


"We made a big decision to have Spectra here, and we had other choices. We thought that we made the best choice," said Capron, who said she is concerned about stakeholders. "We're looking for bookings, and we're looking for customer service. That's not asking for much, but it's asking for everything because this is what Sioux City is. We want to do the best thing for most people here."

According to Hontz, most artists book their tours a year or more in advance and only a very small number will book an event six months before. He said Spectra booked a fall 2019 tour at the Tyson last week.

"It's not as fast as we wanted it to be, but we're certainly making some great strides," he said.

The Capron comments speak to accountability. We were encouraged by the positive tone of Spectra responses to the council on Nov. 5.

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Justice Department will monitor Tuesday voting in Buena Vista County

STORM LAKE, Iowa -- The Trump administration will send election observers to monitor polling places in Buena Vista County on Tuesday.

Of the 35 cities and counties in 19 states where U.S. Justice Department personnel will monitor compliance with federal voting rights laws, Buena Vista County is the only jurisdiction in Iowa.

A Monday release from the department did not cite how the jurisdictions were picked.

"They are just coming to observe, to see how the process is going," Buena Vista County Auditor Sue Lloyd said in an interview. Lloyd said she welcomes the review by DOJ workers.

About 25 percent of the 20,260 Buena Vista County residents are Latinos. Storm Lake, the county seat, is home to two large meat plants that employ hundreds of immigrants.

Lloyd, the county's chief election official, said she's been talking with federal officials for two years on the requirement that the county print voter registration materials and ballots in both English and Spanish.

She said certain census data summarizing the educational levels of fifth grade students in the county triggered that requirement, so since January 2017 the voting materials have been printed in both languages for such balloting opportunities for school board member selection and the June party primary election.

Lloyd said the county sought to get one or two election precinct workers who are versed in two languages in some polling places. She said there should be seven such bilingual poll workers in Storm Lake and one in Alta, but that didn't pan out as she hired personnel for the election.

"We do have some bilingual workers in our precincts, not as many as we should have," she said. "They are hard to find, they have other jobs" on a weekday.

She added, "We are trying to do everything that we can on what we are required to do."

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate on Monday said he would hold a Tuesday morning press conference to discuss election cybersecurity and steps the state is taking to protect the integrity of the vote.

Storm Lake is part of Iowa's 4th District, where incumbent U.S. Rep. Steve King, known for his outspoken views on immigration and Western civilization, finds himself in an unexpected tough fight with Democrat J.D. Scholten. 

The number of jurisdictions with DOJ election monitors Tuesday is similar to the last midterm election in 2014, when the Obama sent monitors to 28 jurisdictions in 18 states.

This year, the 35 locations include two in North Dakota and one in South Dakota, all on Native American reservations.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the DOJ is "using every lawful tool that we have, both civil and criminal, to protect the rights of millions of Americans to cast their vote unimpeded at one of more than 170,000 precincts across America... Likewise, fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated. Fraud also corrupts the integrity of the ballot.”


Jeff Sessions

Mark Stringer, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, in a statement to the Journal said the group supports the DOJ steps Tuesday.

"We share an interest in protecting the right of all eligible voters to participate in Tuesday’s election and presume that the civil rights division of the DOJ will be working to ensure that voters in Buena Vista County will be able to vote," Stringer said.

Sessions said complaints related to disruption at a polling place should always be reported immediately to local election officials, including at the precinct place. Complaints related to violence, threats of violence or intimidation at a polling place should be reported immediately to local police authorities by calling 911. 

DOJ staff will be available all day by phone to receive complaints. Voters can call at 800-253-3931 or 202-307-2767.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 

Sioux City East's Kaia Downs runs during Marsha Koebernick Cross Country Invitational in South Sioux City.

Justin Wan, Sioux City Journal 



MINI: Appreciation for work

A special "shout out" of thanks to Becky Chicoine and friends for the planting, watering and maintaining of the triangle at the junction of Military Road and Riverside Boulevard. This has been done for many years and I just want you to know your work has been appreciated.

Pat Fravel, Sioux City