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NEWS 6.7.22: Primary Elections, Sioux City Man Takes Plea Deal in Connection to Attack on U.S. Capitol, Dakota Access Vandalism Case Appeal, and More

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Iowa Secretary of State
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It is Primary Election Day for two Siouxland states. Polls close in Iowa at 8 p.m. and South Dakota 7 p.m (local time).

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate tells Radio Iowa about 65,000 early voters. That is more than in 2018.

Pate says the election process is going well as Iowans vote in the primary elections for U.S. Senate, Congress, and state and local offices.

Iowa set an all-time primary record of nearly half a million voters in 2020.

Iowans voting in person today should double-check their polling location, as some have changed. That’s because of the once-every-decade process that has redrawn the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts.

Republican lawmakers shortened the time period for requesting an absentee ballot and the Iowa Capital Dispatch is reporting 461 voters in four of Iowa’s largest counties missed the deadline.

Iowans who’ve filled out an absentee ballot, but didn’t get it delivered have two options today. They can surrender it at their local precinct and cast a new ballot at the polling place or they can take the absentee ballot to their local county auditor’s office.

Absentee ballots must be delivered to the auditor’s office by 8 p.m. tonight, or the ballot will not be counted.

Several Iowa Democrats are competing for the chance to challenge Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley in what will likely be an uphill effort to defeat one of the Senate’s longest-serving members. Tuesday's Democratic primary largely centers on a former congresswoman from northeast Iowa, Abby Finkenauer, and a retired Navy vice admiral, Mike Franken. Also running is a physician, Glenn Hurst, who is a city councilman and an official in the Iowa Democratic Party. Regardless of who emerges on top, the Democrat will face strong headwinds going against Grassley. He is seeking an eighth term in an increasingly Republican state.

After running unopposed in Iowa’s primary election, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds holds a huge fundraising edge over Democrat Deidre DeJear in a state that has become increasingly friendly to conservative candidates. DeJear, a 36-year-old businesswoman who also faced no primary opposition, is seeking to become the first Democrat elected governor of Iowa in 16 years. She will face a tough challenger in Reynolds, whose campaign has raised eight times more money than the Democrat as she seeks a second full term. Since becoming governor, Reynolds has ticked through a long list of conservative accomplishments.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is looking to show her strength with Republican voters in Tuesday’s primary. She, along with U.S. Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson, are looking to fend off challengers running to their right. Noem has parlayed popularity with Republicans for her hands-off approach to pandemic restrictions into national prominence. But that hasn’t insulated her from criticism from the right in reliably red South Dakota. Tuesday's primaries will show just how strong the right-wing of the Republican party has grown in South Dakota.

Primary voters will decide whether to add a new requirement to South Dakota’s constitution that will make it more difficult to pass ballot measures that raise taxes or expend significant government funds. The proposal creates a showdown over direct democracy in a state where voter-initiated laws were pioneered but Republicans pride themselves on levying minimal taxes. The proposed constitutional amendment, which will appear as Amendment C on ballots, would place a 60% vote threshold on citizen-initiated ballot measures that raise taxes or spend more than $10 million within five years of enactment.

Another Iowan has reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors on charges from the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

In a D.C. District Court hearing today (Tuesday) Kenneth Rader of Sioux City pleaded guilty to one count of illegally picketing inside the Capitol.

In Facebook posts leading up to January 6th, he said he would go to the front line in a “civil war.”

Rader could receive up to six months in prison and faces fines of up to 5-thousand dollars.

He must also pay 500 dollars in restitution to offset the cost of repairing the Capitol.

He remains free on bond until his sentencing in September.

Out of the eight Iowans charged following January 6th, Rader is the third person to accept a plea deal.

A state judge has ordered that the trial for a 16-year-old teen accused of killing his high school Spanish teacher will be held in Council Bluffs in western Iowa. Judge Shawn Showers on Monday ordered the trial for Willard Miller of Fairfield to be moved about 200 miles from Fairfield in southeast Iowa to Council Bluffs. The trial is set to begin Nov. 1. Miller and his 17-year-old classmate Jeremy Goodale will be tried as adults. They face first-degree murder charges in the beating death of 66-year-old Nohema Graber, who taught at the Fairfield High School. The location of Goodale’s trial, set for Aug. 23, has not been set.

Radio Iowa reports U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the eight-year prison sentence given to a woman in 2021 after she admitted to damaging the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Jessica Reznicek pleaded guilty to conspiracy to damage an energy facility after admitting to vandalism in Buena Vista, Mahaska, and Wapello County that included taking a blowtorch to the pipeline. Reznicek argued she was motivated by saving the environment, and the district court erred by classifying her actions as terrorism.

The Appeals Court ruling says the district court would have imposed the same sentence without the terrorism enhancement. It says the district court sentencing considered Reznicek’s “laudable, though ultimately misguided, motivations,” as well as her encouragement of others to imitate her crimes, that her vandalism caused “a grave risk to others,” and that her crimes continued over a long stretch of time.

Another woman, Ruby Montoya, admitted to the vandalism along with Reznicek and reached a plea deal with prosecutors, but she has been fighting to withdraw her plea and take the case to trial.

Cases of COVID-19 continue to climb in Nebraska, but still remain fairly low compared to the rest of the United States. The CDC recorded 2,350 cases last week, an increase of about 30% from the week before. However, some cases were reported later due to the Memorial Day weekend. There were 20% more hospitalizations, with a daily average of more than 100. Nebraska’s per-capita infection rate is 40th in the nation.

Governor Reynolds has signed a bill into law that lifts the cap on the amount of alcohol Iowa distilleries may produce. It also lets smaller distilleries sell up to nine liters of alcohol to retail customers at their locations. Larger Iowa distilleries are already allowed to sell that amount to a retail customer.

Radio Iowa reports Reynolds went to a distillery in Osceola for a ceremony to sign the bill, which deals with a wide-range of state liquor control issues.

The legislation became a catch-all for several proposals. It includes new restrictions for food delivery companies like GrubHub, Uber Eats and DoorDash.

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City of Sioux City
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Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.