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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Another look at the uncontested Iowa House districts

Over at the Smart Politics blog based at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Eric Ostermeier takes a look at the uncontested Iowa House districts today. He leads with this surprising fact: "Iowa Republicans failed to field candidates in a party record 32 State House districts this cycle." I recommend clicking through to read his whole post, which explores historical trends in Iowa House candidate recruitment for both parties.

Bleeding Heartland previously commented on the uncontested Iowa House races here. After the jump I’ve posted my thoughts on Ostermeier’s analysis.

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Weekend open thread: Candidate filing deadline edition

I’m posting the weekend thread early, because the filing period for primary election candidates in Iowa closed this afternoon. The Secretary of State’s Office posted the full list of candidates here (pdf). John Deeth has been covering the filing on a daily basis all month at his blog. Some highlights from races I’m watching are after the jump.

This is an open thread; all topics welcome.

UPDATE: Gotta agree with Senator Chuck Grassley: the History Channel is useless.

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Democrats need a new candidate in Iowa House district 48

Via John Deeth’s blog I learned that former State Senator Rich Olive has dropped out of the race for the new Iowa House district 48. Olive had announced his candidacy in June, but in a recent Facebook message, he indicated that he does not want to move out of his Story City home. Last month Republican State Senator Rob Bacon, who defeated Olive in 2010, announced his candidacy in House district 48.

After the jump I’ve posted Olive’s full statement from Facebook and a map of the district. It 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.  

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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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