First-term GOP State Representative Darrel Branhagen announced yesterday that he will retire this year rather than seek another term in Iowa House district 55.
He is the eighth of the 57 House Republicans to announce retirement plans since last summer. The others are Kraig Paulsen (House district 67), Linda Miller (House district 94), John Kooiker (House district 4), Ron Jorgensen (House district 6), Quentin Stanerson (House district 95), Brian Moore (House district 58), and Josh Byrnes (House district 51).
Kooiker’s district is the most solidly Republican in the state. Based on current voter registration numbers, Republicans will be favored to hold House districts 6, 67, and 94. On the other hand, the seats being vacated by Branhagen, Byrnes, Moore, and Stanerson will be strong pickup opportunities for Democrats. Bleeding Heartland previously discussed the political balance and recent voting history of districts 51, 58, and 95.
House district 55 covers most of Winneshiek County (including Decorah), part of Fayette County (including West Union), and a small area in Clayton County (including Elkader). A map is after the jump. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, the district contains 5,539 active registered Democrats, 6,568 Republicans, and 6,499 no-party voters.
President Barack Obama took 55.19 percent of the vote among House district 55 residents in the 2012 general election. Joni Ernst outpolled Bruce Braley here in the 2014 U.S. Senate race, but by 50.28 percent to 45.60 percent, substantially less than her statewide margin of victory.
House district 55 was open for the 2014 general election following the retirement of longtime Democratic State Representative Roger Thomas. Branhagen defeated Democrat Rick Edwards by just 27 votes, the closest Iowa legislative result of the cycle.
Two Democrats had already begun campaigning here before Branhagen made his retirement plans known. I enclose below a press release with background on Pat Ritter, an attorney from West Union who launched his campaign in December. Former Winneshiek County Supervisor Steve McCargar announced his candidacy last month. A press release noted McCargar "was a co-manager at Oneota Food Coop for 25 years, helped start Hometown Taxi in 1987 and is currently a pre-school teacher and farmers market manager in Decorah." I have not yet heard of a Republican candidate in House district 55, but Decorahnews.com reported yesterday that an "announcement is expected soon."