How not to retire from the Iowa legislature (revisited)

A few months ago, Bleeding Heartland criticized the practice of longtime Iowa legislators announcing their retirements within a day or two of the filing deadline for primary candidates. Too many incumbents in both parties have pulled that stunt over the years. Respect for one’s constituents demands giving people outside a small circle of party activists a few weeks, or ideally a few months, to consider running for the Iowa House or Senate.

Yesterday, State Representative Henry Rayhons demonstrated an even worse way to retire from the Iowa legislature. Just eleven days before the deadline for getting a candidate on the general election ballot, the nine-term Iowa House Republican announced that he would not seek re-election, citing “ongoing family and health matters.” Rae Yost reported for the Mason City Globe-Gazette that the Rayhons family “has been dealing with issues regarding appointment of a guardian and conservator” for the 78-year-old lawmaker’s wife.

Rayhons should have announced his retirement earlier this year, anticipating that he would be unable to serve another two-year term. Then other Republicans could have competed in a primary to represent Iowa House district 8, covering part of Kossuth County and all of Hancock and Wright counties. Now only a handful of GOP activists will have a say in choosing Rayhons’ successor. They need to convene a nominating convention in the middle of vacation season and the Iowa State Fair. The GOP nominee will face Democrat Nancy Huisinga in a district that strongly favors Republicans in voter registrations and presidential voting in 2012.

Arguably, Rayhons should have stepped aside gracefully three years ago, after Iowa’s new map of political boundaries threw him and two House GOP colleagues into House district 8. Instead, House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer moved to the Clear Lake area to run in House district 52. It made no sense for Upmeyer to defer to an eight-term backbencher like Rayhons when doing so meant bigfooting Gabe Haugland, the ambitious young Republican who was already planning to run in HD-52. Everyone could see that Rayhons didn’t have a long political career ahead of him and wasn’t a key member of the House GOP caucus. We haven’t seen the last of Haugland, who was elected to the Iowa GOP’s State Central Committee earlier this year. But he could be seeking a second term in a safe Iowa House seat by now if Rayhons had allowed Upmeyer to stay in HD-08.

I’m glad there is no mandatory retirement age for Iowa legislators, but sometimes our older incumbents are too reluctant to step aside for a younger generation.

UPDATE: I was sorry to hear that Donna Lou Young Rayhons passed away on August 8.

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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Analysis of the Obama-Romney vote in the Iowa House districts

The Daily Kos Elections team has been compiling 2012 presidential election results by state legislative district as well as by Congressional district, state by state. Last week the Iowa numbers were added to the database. I took a first stab at previewing the battle for control of the Iowa Senate next year, using data including the raw vote totals and percentages for President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney in each district.

The Daily Kos database includes Obama and Romney vote totals and percentages for each Iowa House district here. After the jump I’ve incorporated that information and other factors to predict which Iowa House districts will be competitive in 2014. Writing this post has been challenging, because every election cycle brings surprises, and many more seats in the lower chamber will be in play. Unlike the Iowa Senate, where only half of the 50 members are on the ballot in each general election, all 100 Iowa House members are on ballot in every even-numbered year. Republicans currently hold a 53-47 majority in the lower chamber.

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Iowa House district 52 special election thread UPDATED: Prichard wins

Voters in Iowa House district 52 elect a new state representative today to replace Democrat Brian Quirk, who announced his resignation in November. The Democratic candidate is Todd Prichard, who sounds like he’d be an improvement on Quirk. The Republican candidate is Dennis Litterer. Last-minute GOTV must have been terrible for both sides, with the coldest weather of the winter so far hitting Iowa over the weekend.

Prichard took an early vote advantage into election day. A district map, voter registration figures, and absentee ballot numbers are after the jump. I will update this post with election results after polls close at 9 pm.

9:30 UPDATE: Early returns show Prichard leading by about 600 votes, but none of the results are in for Chickasaw County, where Litterer lives.

10:00 UPDATE: Prichard wins, giving Democrats 47 seats in the Iowa House to 53 Republicans. Unofficial returns show that Prichard carried Floyd County by 1,541 votes to 1,006, Chickasaw County by 1,254 votes to 1,222, and the three Cerro Gordo precincts by 129 votes to 111. Total: 2,924 votes for Prichard, 2,339 votes for Litterer, 83 votes for independent candidate Craig Clark, and 5 write-in votes. I always wonder, who goes to the trouble of casting a ballot for a write-in candidate in a special election like this?

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Todd Prichard Has a Republican Opponent in HD 52

(Bumping some pre-holiday news about the first Iowa election of 2013 in House district 52. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Last night the GOP picked Dennis Litterer of Ionia as the Republican nominee for the January 22 special election to replace Brian Quirk, a New Hampton Democrat who resigned suddenly. Litterer is in the insurance business, grew up on a farm, and farmed on his own before taking up his current occupation.  He is reportedly a staunch conservative, and his views will begin to be examined in the next few weeks.  The Iowa Republican has more.

I am asking for help on behalf of every active Democrat in Floyd and Chickasaw Counties.  We are doing everything we can to keep this seat blue.  I am also asking on behalf of Iowa.  If we lose this seat, we are another step closer to being Wisconsin.  In the words of Mary Jo Wilhelm, who beat Merlin Bartz by a mere 120 votes, we cannot let that happen to Iowa. These two counties are part of Mary Jo's Senate District, and make up the majority of HD 52 (which also includes the three eastern precincts in Cerro Gordo).The more conservative counties to the north are not part of the House District, so there is a good chance to win.

Why should you help if you are not in HD 52?  An answer, below the fold.

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Todd Prichard is the Dem choice for HD 52 UPDATED

( - promoted by desmoinesdem)

UPDATE: Todd has an ActBlue account.  You can help put another Democrat in the Iowa House at:


Democrats in House District 52 held a contested convention last night to choose a candidate to replace Brian Quirk, who resigned a few weeks after winning reelection.  Two candidates came forward: retired teacher Tom Sauser of New Hampton and Todd Prichard, a lawyer from Charles City. Prichard won with 4988 allocated votes to 3790 for Sauser.

Tom Sauser deserves appreciation for being willing to step forward and run.  Running for office is no walk in the park in any season, but January in Iowa, two months after a national election, during the Christmas season, has to be the worst possible timing.

He was the first to enter the race, and was recruited by Quirk, a  conservative Democrat who was, until recently, a member of ALEC. Sauser taught middle school for 38 years, and retired in 2011.  He conceded that he was not conversant with many issues affecting the state, but committed to learn as much as he could, and listen to his constituents.  His speech, which he read from prepared remarks, was well-received. He had introduced himself to Floyd County Democrats in a meeting on Wednesday last week, a meeting that Prichard attended. It was clear from that meeting that Sauser had a steep learning curve ahead of him, but anyone in that room would have preferred him to the various far-right Republicans who are rumored to be running.The Chickasaw County delegates clearly regarded him with respect and affection.

Todd Prichard left the Wednesday meeting thinking about running himself.  He called Floyd Democrats through the weekend and made the decision on Sunday. He immediately had the support of many of the people who have been knocking doors in Floyd County throughout 2012.  He is an activist—always there when there is a candidate event or grunt work to do, and very well-liked.

By Monday evening, the word was out that the convention would not be a pro-forma event, and delegates showed up from all but one precinct in Cerro Gordo and two precincts in Chickasaw.  Because of redistricting, Chickasaw and Floyd Counties were combined for the first time in the 2012 election, and activists from each county were wearing name tags and introducing themselves to one another. With a coin flip, Prichard chose to speak second, so Sauser spoke first.  Each candidate gave gracious assurances to the other that he would support the victor.

More on the convention, and what Prichard had to say, below the fold.


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