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Erin Murphy

It was a moment so quintessentially Iowa that Raygun has a T-shirt that describes it.

Beto O’Rourke spent two days this week touring through eastern Iowa in the first trip of his nascent presidential campaign.

The Democrat and former Texas congressman has been a rising star in the party ever since he narrowly lost a 2018 U.S. Senate race in Texas to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke made his run for president official by releasing a video on social media bright and early Thursday morning, just ahead of his first campaign stops in southeast Iowa.

He had stayed in an Iowa hotel Wednesday evening, and when he was checking out Thursday morning, O’Rourke said the hotel staff told him they had heard there was a presidential candidate in town.

Hold on, Iowa. It gets better.

O’Rourke said he told the staff that he was the presidential candidate they heard about. They thought he was joking and laughed, he said.

O’Rourke said he reassured them he was serious, that he was indeed running for president.

Only in Iowa could someone be detached enough from politics to not recognize Beto O’Rourke yet still tuned into the rumor mill enough to know there is a presidential candidate in town, only to cross paths with said candidate.

As O’Rourke relayed the anecdote to me during my interview with him on Thursday, I could not help but think of one of Raygun’s caucus-themed T-shirts.

It reads, “Hi, do you live here or are you running for president?”

If only the hotel staff had been wearing that shirt when O’Rourke checked out.

Special election

We’ll know soon enough whether the cavalcade of caucus candidates are helping Democrats in a statehouse special election.

A Cedar Valley seat in the Iowa Senate is up for grabs after the recent resignation of former Iowa Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo. Running for the open seat are Democrat Eric Giddens, Republican Walt Rogers and Libertarian Fred Perryman.

Democrats are hoping for a boost from get-out-the-vote events hosted by or including many of the party’s presidential hopefuls.

This weekend alone, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, John Delaney and Beto O’Rourke are participating in events in the district. Elizabeth Warren dropped by to help out earlier this month, as did potential 2020ers Steve Bullock and Eric Swalwell.

That’s a lot of events, a lot of pitches from presidential candidates for voting early or committing to support the Democrat on Election Day.

On Tuesday, the final count will tell whether it was enough to move the needle in this special election, the type that typically have low voter turnout.

Online amendments

As Sunshine week comes to a close, here’s my pitch to the Iowa Legislature: make bill amendments more readily available online.

All bills introduced in the Iowa Legislature are posted online. Amendments also are posted online, but not as efficiently. It can be especially problematic when an amendment is introduced near the same time the bill is being debated, either in a committee or on the Iowa House or Senate floor.

It can take some time for an amendment to be posted online, meaning anyone without a physical copy – and yes, I’m viewing this through the media’s lens – is flying blind while it is being debated.

That can be troublesome because it is not at all uncommon for an amendment to completely change the bill and its potential impact.

It would provide better transparency for those amendments to be published online more rapidly. Surely there are logistical concerns that could make that difficult, but the increased transparency would be worth the effort.

Credit also is due here to Des Moines Register reporter Barbara Rodriguez, who raised some of these concerns after legislation regarding local property taxes was amended this week right around the same time it was being debated in a committee.

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Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government for Lee Enterprises. His email address is erin.murphy@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.

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