58 Iowa House seats uncontested, including a dozen in competitive Senate districts

In any given general election, roughly a dozen or two of the 100 Iowa House districts are in play. A first look through the list of candidates who qualified for the primary ballot suggests that this year, fewer Iowa House districts will be competitive than in 2010 or 2012. Republicans have failed to field a candidate in 32 of the 47 Democratic-held House districts. Democrats have failed to field a candidate in 26 of the 53 Republican-held House districts.

Although a few of these districts may see major-party candidates nominated through special conventions after the primary, it’s rare for late-starting candidates to have a realistic chance to beat an incumbent. (That said, two Iowa House Democrats lost in 2010 to candidates who joined the race over the summer rather than during the primary campaign.)

After the jump I’ve enclosed a full list of the Iowa House districts left unchallenged by one of the major parties. I highlighted the most surprising recruitment failures and what looks like a pattern of uncontested House seats in Senate districts that will be targeted by both parties, which may reflect a deliberate strategy. House incumbents with no fear of losing may slack off on GOTV in one half of a Senate district where every vote may count.

A future post will focus on the ten or fifteen Iowa House races likely to be most competitive this fall.

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Lisa Heddens, Rich Olive announce Iowa House campaigns

UPDATE: Rich Olive withdrew from this race in October 2011.

Democratic State Representative Lisa Heddens, the ranking member of the Iowa House Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, announced today that she will seek re-election in the new Iowa House district 46. The district covers most of northern Ames in Story County, and Heddens has represented most of its residents for five terms. As of April 2011, the district contained 6,336 registered Democrats, 5,055 registered Republicans and 7,040 no-party voters. Heddens will need to move before the 2012 election, because Iowa’s new map put her home in House district 48, which has a slight Republican registration advantage. To my knowledge, no one else has announced plans to run in the new House district 46. In 2010, Heddens had a Libertarian opponent as well as a Republican challenger. The Libertarian Party has nominated candidates in several college-town districts in recent years.

Heddens’ impending move leaves the new House district 48 without an incumbent, but the House Democrats didn’t keep anyone guessing. Former State Senator Rich Olive announced his candidacy there today. District 48 covers Gilbert and rural areas in northwest Story County, Madrid and several townships in eastern Boone County, much of eastern Webster County and all of Hamilton County. As of April 2011, House district 48 contained 5,991 registered Democrats, 6,445 registered Republicans and 7,300 no-party voters.

A lot of the territory in House district 48 was in the old Senate district 5, which Olive represented for one term. He squeaked by in the 2006 Democratic wave election with a 55-vote margin in that district, left open when Republican Stewart Iverson retired from the Senate. Iowa Democrats considered him a favorite to win re-election in 2010 despite the GOP voter registration advantage in his district. Senate Republicans did not appear to be targeting him for much of the year. Conservative interest groups like the Iowa Farm Bureau and the Iowa Association for Business and Industry endorsed Olive in 2010. Now that Republicans control the Iowa House, I doubt those groups will support Olive’s comeback effort. I’m not aware of any announced Republican candidate in district 48.

Olive is the second state senator defeated in 2010 to seek a seat in the Iowa House. Last month Bill Heckroth announced plans to run in the new House district 63, covering territory he represented for four years in the Senate. Iverson returned to the capitol via the Iowa House, defeating Democratic State Representative McKinley Bailey in 2010. He may jump back to the upper chamber next year via the new Senate district 4.

After the jump I’ve posted maps of House district 46 and 48, along with today’s campaign announcements from Heddens and Olive. Any thoughts about the 2012 state legislative races are welcome in this thread.  

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