Republicans running scared in Iowa House district 6 (updated)

The Republican Party of Iowa is spending heavily to defend Iowa House district 6, where voters will choose a successor to State Representative Jim Carlin on January 16. The Iowa GOP did not intervene to support Carlin before last month’s special election for Senate district 3, considered safe Republican territory. Carlin won that race by a little less than 10 percent. Amazingly, the Democratic candidate gained more votes in the half of the district that Carlin has represented in the Iowa House.

Campaign finance reports (here and here) show the state GOP has spent more than $118,000, mostly on television and radio commercials in the Sioux City market and direct mail to residents of House district 6. I enclose below the positive television commercial about Republican candidate Jacob Bossman and several direct mail pieces attacking Democratic nominee Rita DeJong.

The tv spot relies heavily on an image of U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley with his longtime staffer. Grassley headlined a rally to support Bossman on January 13, but the party didn’t have to pay his travel expenses. The senator is passing through western Iowa on the federal government’s dime as part of his annual 99-county tour. UPDATE: A reader notes the “rally” was moved from a room that would hold 250 people to the lobby, so the few dozen attendees would appear to fill up the venue.

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Who's endorsed the seven Democrats running for Congress in IA-03

Seven candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district, where two-term Representative David Young will be a top target for national Democrats and outside groups. Young’s approval rating was below 40 percent in an October survey by Public Policy Polling for Patriot Majority USA. The latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register found that 36 percent of respondents in IA-03 would support an unnamed Republican running for Congress, while 35 percent would vote for a Democrat.

This race is wide open, and the nominee may be chosen at a district convention, if no contender receives at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary. To that end, several candidates are recruiting supporters to attend Iowa Democratic precinct caucuses on February 5. Those caucus-goers will select county convention delegates, and county conventions will select district convention delegates on March 24.

About two-thirds of the Democrats and more than half of all registered voters in IA-03 live in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs. The district’s sixteen counties contain 161,724 active registered Democrats, 173,947 Republicans, and 171,061 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

While many Democratic activists, including myself, haven’t chosen a favorite in this strong field, others have been coming off the fence. Some labor unions or other progressive organizations have started to weigh in too. Last week I asked all seven candidates–Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, Austin Frerick, Theresa Greenfield, Paul Knupp, Eddie Mauro, and Heather Ryan–for a list of endorsements or prominent supporters.

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Iowa AG has joined 36 legal actions challenging Trump policies

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller signed on to three dozen multi-state actions challenging Trump administration policies last year, covering a wide range of immigration, environmental, civil rights, consumer protection and labor issues. Miller also joined fellow attorneys general in nine amicus curiae briefs related to state-level or local policies on reproductive rights, LGBTQ equality, gun control, voting rights, and gerrymandering.

Although federal lawsuits aren’t the main focus of Miller’s work, Iowans can be proud our attorney general repeatedly stood for fundamental rights and core progressive values.

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The 17 Bleeding Heartland posts I worked hardest on in 2017

Since I started writing for this website a decade ago, I’ve never worked harder than I did in 2017. This momentous year in Iowa politics provided an overwhelming amount of source material: new laws affecting hundreds of thousands of people, our first new governor since 2011, and a record number of Democrats seeking federal or statewide offices.

In addition, my focus has shifted toward more topics that require time-consuming research or scrutiny of public records. As I looked over the roughly 420 Bleeding Heartland posts I wrote this year, I realized that dozens of pieces were as labor-intensive as some of those I worked hardest on in 2015 or 2016.

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Zach Wahls, Janice Weiner running in Iowa Senate district 37

Zach Wahls announced his candidacy today in Iowa Senate district 37, where Democratic State Senator Bob Dvorsky plans to retire at the end of 2018. Janice Weiner launched her campaign for the same seat earlier this week, but Wahls will be heavily favored to win the Democratic nomination.

Follow me after the jump for background on both candidates and the political landscape in this must-hold district for Democrats.

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Iowa House district 6 special election set for January 16

Voters in Iowa House district 6 will elect a successor to Republican State Representative Jim Carlin on January 16, under a proclamation Governor Kim Reynolds issued today. Carlin resigned his House seat after winning last week’s special election to represent Iowa Senate district 3.

Iowa Code normally requires the governor to give “not less than forty days’ notice” before setting an election to fill a vacancy in the state legislature. But if the vacancy occurs within 45 days of the start of the next legislative session (in this case January 8), state law calls on the governor to “order such special election at the earliest practical time, giving at least eighteen days’ notice.”

House district 6 covers the Morningside area of Sioux City, Sergeant Bluff, and some parts of rural Woodbury County (see map above). The district leans to the GOP, with 5,004 active registered Democrats, 7,787 Republicans, and 6,587 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Voters here favored Donald Trump for president over Hillary Clinton by 62.4 percent to 32.5 percent.

Yet Democrats ready to fight for this seat packed the room for the December 20 Woodbury County party central committee meeting. Why are they so energized? As Josh Hughes explained in his precinct-level analysis of the Senate district 3 results, “Just 13 months ago, Carlin won an open seat here with 65 percent of the vote against a relatively well funded Democratic candidate. On Tuesday, Carlin received just 48 percent of the vote in his home district.”

Hughes showed in this table how every precinct in House district 6 “moved leftward by double digits” between the 2016 general election and last week’s special election:

Carlin spent less than $10,000 on his Senate district 3 bid. I expect Republicans to spend more defending House district 6, including radio and possibly television commercials. However, the truncated campaign won’t leave time for six-figure spending from both parties, as happened before last summer’s special election in House district 82.

Both parties will select nominees at special district conventions soon. I haven’t heard of any confirmed candidates. Sioux City school board member Perla Alarcon-Flory, the 2016 Democratic nominee in House district 6, may take another crack at the seat. Todd Wendt has strong Sioux City roots but is ineligible, because he lives in the other half of Senate district 3 (House district 5).

UPDATE: Bret Hayworth reported for the Sioux City Journal last week that Jacob Bossman, a longtime staffer for Senator Chuck Grassley, is seeking the GOP nomination here. Bossman lost the 2016 primary to Carlin. He has a campaign website and is on Twitter and Facebook.

Via Iowa Starting Line, Rita DeJong is running for House district 6 as a Democrat. DeJong is also on Twitter and Facebook. Here’s the bio from her campaign website:

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