Any comments on today’s election results are welcome in this thread. Polls closed at 9 pm in Iowa, but returns from the special election in Senate district 18 are coming in slowly. I will update this thread later as the outcome becomes clear. With six out of 40 precincts reporting, Democrat Liz Mathis leads Republican Cindy Golding by 5859 votes to 2474. UPDATE: Looks like a big win for Mathis. With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Mathis leads by 10,651 votes (58 percent) to 7,613 votes (41 percent).
SECOND UPDATE: The Linn County Auditor’s office posted unofficial results here (pdf). With all 40 precincts reporting, Mathis received 13,184 votes (55.8 percent), Golding received 10,283 votes (43.5 percent), and Constitution Party candidate Jon Tack received 151 votes (0.64 percent).
Democrats have retained control of the Iowa Senate with a 26-24 majority for the 2012 legislative session. It may even be a “stronger” majority if Mathis turns out to be less conservative than her predecessor, Swati Dandekar. Iowa Senate Republicans won’t be in a good mood when they elect a new minority leader on Thursday.
Nationally, Democrats have had good election results in Ohio (repealing a law that restricted collective bargaining rights) and Kentucky (holding the governor’s chair). It’s not yet clear whether Democrats will retain a Virginia Senate majority. I was surprised to see that Mississippi voters defeated a “personhood” ballot initiative stating that life begins at conception.
What races are you watching tonight? The incumbents on the Des Moines City Council easily won re-election. My two preferred candidates lost the Windsor Heights City Council election. Other Polk County results are here.
THIRD UPDATE: Democrats and allies are celebrating the Mathis victory with statements I’ve posted after the jump. The Iowa Democratic Party had lots of outside help with early GOTV from labor unions such as the Iowa State Education Association, the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, the Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC, and the national 527 group Progressive Kick.
FOURTH UPDATE: An amazing result from Arizona tonight: voters recalled State Senate President Russell Pearce, author of the notorious “show me your papers” immigration law (which is being litigated in federal court). Apparently no state senator has ever been recalled in Arizona before. Pearce had been a leading opponent of the state’s “clean elections” public financing system.
FINAL UPDATE: The official canvass showed 13,324 votes for Mathis (56.0 percent), 10,322 votes for Golding (43.4 percent), 151 votes for Tack, and nine write-in votes.
Statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal:
“Congratulations to Liz Mathis for her victory in Senate District 18.
“Liz Mathis proved during this short campaign that she is committed to listening to her constituents and working hard. That is the attitude Liz will bring to the Capitol to improve the quality of life for families across Linn County.
“As Iowa’s newest State Senator, Liz Mathis will ensure that our state continues to be a place where business can grow and prosper, a place where we can raise our families and a place where our children have access to every opportunity.”
Statement from Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky:
“Liz Mathis will be a dedicated voice for eastern Iowa as the newest member of the Iowa Senate. This election reaffirms Democratic commitment to creating jobs and strengthening education in the state of Iowa. Voters in Senate District 18 know that Democrats are the best choice to continue moving Iowa forward, and made their voice heard tonight at the polls.
“We thank Liz Mathis for her tireless campaigning, as well as the countless volunteers and community leaders who made this victory possible.”
Press release from the Iowa Democratic Party:
Liz Mathis wins pivotal Special Election
Democrat Liz Mathis tonight won a decisive victory over Republican Cindy Golding in the Senate District 18 Special Election. District 18 covers Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, portions of Cedar Rapids and towns in rural north and western Linn County including Alburnett, Coggon, Center Point, Central City, Fairfax, Palo, Prairieburg, Toddville, and Walker.
“Tonight I want to thank the voters of Senate District 18,” said Mathis. “Over the past 40 days, we talked with thousands of people here. They told us they were concerned about job creation, small business growth and education funding. We listened to them and we built our campaign on addressing their concerns.”
Mathis added: “I pledge to the voters of this district: I will go to the Capitol and fight for you every day. I will be your voice in the State Senate.”
This was Mathis’ first run for public office. Mathis currently works for Four Oaks, a child advocacy and juvenile justice agency. She is Chief Information Officer, overseeing legislative advocacy, public relations, marketing and development. Mathis also serves on the Wartburg College Board of Regents and on the Board of Directors of Ohnward Bank.
Mathis was a news anchor, reporter and producer at KCRG-TV from 1998 to 2007. Prior to KCRG, Mathis spent 16 years at KWWL-TV in Waterloo, where she was an executive producer and the first female co-anchor of the evening news. She also taught communication studies and first amendment law at Wartburg College from 1996-1998.
Mathis and her husband, Mark, who owns the advertising agency ME&V, live near Robins and have two children. She grew up on a farm in eastern Iowa and is a University of Iowa graduate.
Statement from the advocacy group One Iowa:
From One Iowa Executive Director Troy Price:
“Tonight was a great victory for Iowans. Voters in this district clearly rejected the mean-spirited and misleading attacks of our opposition that we saw right up until the polls closed on election day. Instead, voters elected the candidate they felt would best move our state forward. We are so proud of our volunteers, staff, and supporters who helped make this victory possible. We know that Liz Mathis will be a great senator, and we look forward to working with her in the coming legislative session.”
“The election is over, but the battle is far from over. Now, the focus turns to the coming legislative session where we fully expect the opponents of equality to redouble their efforts to take away the rights of loving, committed gay and lesbian couples. One Iowa will be there to stand up for marriage equality at every turn, and we are excited to work with the fair-minded Senate majority to ensure that freedom and equality remains in the heart of the heartland.”
The Cedar Rapids Gazette quoted Iowa’s most prominent labor leader:
Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO President Ken Sagar called Mathis’ win “a clear signal that voters are rejecting the anti-education, anti-working family agenda of Branstad and his followers in the Iowa Legislature.”
Union families volunteered tirelessly to get out the vote because working Iowans understood what was at stake in this election, Sagar said.
“Iowa voters want to see their elected officials work together to create good jobs, not slash education and attack collective bargaining rights of teachers, firefighters and nurses,” he said.