20 Iowa House races to watch tonight

Thanks to Iowa’s non-partisan redistricting process, we have an unusually large number of competitive state legislative districts. In any given general election, depending on candidate recruitment, between one dozen and two dozen of the 100 Iowa House districts could be up for grabs. Democrats and Republicans spend big money on a much smaller number of districts; this year, only seven Iowa House races involved a large amount of television advertising. But the parties and candidates invest in direct mail and/or radio commercials in many more places than that.

Republicans go into election day favored to hold their Iowa House majority, which now stands at 53 seats to 47. Carolyn Fiddler has pegged seven “districts to watch” at her Statehouse Action blog, and in September, the Des Moines Register’s Jason Noble discussed five districts he viewed as “key to Iowa House chamber control.” I see the playing field as much larger.

Follow me after the jump to review 20 Iowa House seats that will determine control of the chamber for the next two years.

Caveat: most years, there’s at least one shocking result in an Iowa House district neither party had their eye on. I’m thinking about Tami Weincek defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent in Waterloo in 2006, Kent Sorenson defeating a Democratic incumbent in Warren County in 2008, three Democratic state representatives who had run unopposed in 2008 losing in 2010, and Democrat Daniel Lundby taking out the seemingly safe Republican Nick Wagner in the Linn County suburbs in 2012. Wagner had run unopposed in the previous election.

So, while I don’t expect any of the “favored” seats discussed below to change hands, I would not rule out a surprise or two. That would be excellent news for the stealth challenger’s party.

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Prospects for increasing diversity in the Iowa legislature

Forty men and ten women currently serve in the Iowa Senate. No senators are African-American, Latino, or Asian-American.

Seventy-five men and 25 women currently serve in the Iowa House. Five state representatives are African-American and none are Latino or Asian-American.

Time for a look at how those numbers might change after the November election, now that primaries have determined the major-party nominees in all state legislative districts. Click here for the June 3 unofficial election results and here for the full list of candidates who filed to run in the primaries.

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Jon Van Wyk drops out of Iowa House district 28 GOP primary

Yesterday was the deadline for Iowa candidates who had qualified for a major-party primary to have their names removed from the primary ballot. The full list of candidates is on the Secretary of State’s website (pdf). Jon Van Wyk’s name is now absent from the Republican Party line in Iowa House district 28. His challenge against first-term State Representative Greg Heartsill was shaping up to be one of the most interesting state legislative primaries. However, the Knoxville Journal-Express reported that six people objected to Van Wyk’s candidacy because he and his family live in Clive, a suburb of Des Moines. They plan to move to Sully, located in House district 28, this summer.

After the jump I’ve posted Van Wyk’s comments on dropping out and a map of House district 28, where Van Wyk plans to run again in 2016.

Heartsill, one of the most “out there” Iowa House Republicans, has the GOP nomination locked up and will face Democrat Megan Suhr in a rematch from 2012. He won that race by 8,197 votes to 6,569. House district 28 leans Republican with 6,020 registered Democrats, 7,368 Republicans, and 8,049 no-party voters as of March 2014.

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Not your father's Republican primary: Jon Van Wyk vs. Greg Heartsill in Iowa House district 28

Once upon a time, a few moderate Republicans served in the Iowa legislature. Sometimes they faced primary challenges from the right, because conservatives resented their positions on social issues and their willingness to compromise with statehouse Democrats.

Social moderates are long gone among Iowa House and Senate Republican ranks, but party leaders prefer not to talk about, let alone deliver on, some of the key priorities for hard-liners. That leads to occasional infighting between mainstream Republican lawmakers and those who want to rock the boat.

One of the proud non-compromisers, Tom Shaw, just announced plans to retire from the Iowa House. His comrade-in-arms Greg Heartsill will face at least one Republican primary challenger in Iowa House district 28.

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Iowa primary election results thread

Polls closed across Iowa at 9 pm, and I will update this post periodically as results come in from around the states. Any comments related to today’s elections are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- As expected, Wisconsin Democrats fell short in their effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker.

UPDATE: Results are after the jump.  

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First look at Democratic prospects for Iowa House gains

The redistricting process and several Republican retirements have created many pickup opportunities for Iowa House Democrats. The devastating 2010 election left them nowhere to go but up in the lower chamber, where Republicans currently enjoy a 60 to 40 majority. Relatively few sitting House Democrats represent vulnerable districts.

Speaking to activists at the Polk County Democratic convention on March 10, I heard lots of optimism about the House races. After the jump I’ve posted some early thoughts on the seats up for grabs.

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