Ten Iowa legislative incumbents who raised surprisingly little for their re-election campaigns

Since the latest deadline for state legislative candidates to report to the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board passed on May 19, I’ve been going through the forms filed by incumbents or challengers in potentially competitive races.

Some of the contribution totals were much lower than I expected to see.

Follow me after the jump for ten Iowa House or Senate incumbents who haven’t been focused on fundraising, even though they could face tough re-election campaigns.

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Iowa Democrats trying to add autism insurance coverage to budget bill

Earlier this month, Claire Celsi informed Bleeding Heartland readers about the demise of an autism insurance bill after State Representative Peter Cownie refused to bring the measure up for a vote in the Iowa House Commerce Committee, which he chairs.

As both Autism Awareness Month and the 2016 legislative session wind down, Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate have been working to add the same requirements to a must-pass budget bill. Follow me after the jump for background and where things stand in this fight.

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Iowa House district 92 preview: Ross Paustian vs. Ken Krumwiede

Iowa House district 92, covering part of Davenport and other areas in Scott County, has changed hands more times in the last decade than any other seat in the Iowa legislature. Democrat Elesha Gayman defeated Republican incumbent Jim Van Fossen in 2006, when the district was number 84. She held that seat against Republican Ross Paustian in 2008, then retired rather than seeking a third term in 2010. Paustian won the open-seat race by a comfortable margin, with a GOP landslide putting the wind at his back. However, he lost his first re-election bid in the slightly reconfigured House district 92 to former State Senator Frank Wood. Undeterred, Paustian sought a rematch and defeated Wood with some help from another Republican wave in 2014.

Four party switches in the last five elections guarantees that both parties will target this district in the fall.

Paustian is a relatively obscure back-bencher. The vice chair of the House committees on agriculture and environmental protection rarely makes news, except for that time the Des Moines Register’s Brianne Pfannenstiel snapped a photo of him reading the book Sex After Sixty during a long debate over a collective bargaining bill. That story went viral nationally and even made it into a British newspaper.

As of last week, Paustian has a Democratic challenger in Ken Krumwiede. Like Wood, Krumwiede is a career educator, and his campaign announcement signals that school funding will be a central issue in this race. Every Democratic candidate for the legislature should do the same. Last July, Governor Terry Branstad vetoed supplemental spending for K-12 schools and higher education, blowing up a bipartisan budget compromise and blowing a hole in school district budgets. Paustian and most of his fellow statehouse Republicans failed to take up the call to override those vetoes.

I enclose below a district map and background on Paustian and Krumwiede. House district 92 is relatively balanced politically, with 5,686 active registered Democrats, 5,799 Republicans, and 8,820 no-party voters according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. (Those numbers do not include voters who changed party affiliation on February 1 to participate in the Iowa caucuses.) President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney among voters in this district by 53.94 percent to 45.0 percent in 2012. But Joni Ernst prevailed over Bruce Braley here in the 2014 U.S. Senate race by a similar margin of 53.26 percent to 43.45 percent.

Any comments related to the House district 92 campaign or candidates are welcome in this thread. The presidential-year electorate may favor Krumwiede, although incumbents have a natural advantage, and Scott County Republicans have been better-organized lately than local Democrats. The Iowa Farm Bureau will surely get involved on Paustian’s behalf, while organized labor including the Iowa State Education Association will likely assist Krumwiede.

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Weekend open thread: Ross Paustian "Sex After Sixty" edition

What’s on your mind this weekend? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

The most important Iowa political story of the week was state Republican leaders hounding consultant Liz Mair out of a job with Scott Walker’s PAC. Colin Campbell compiled Mair’s tweets about the episode for Business Insider, and they are well worth reading. I’m still annoyed by the collective Republican temper tantrum and the Des Moines Register’s pandering.

A different Iowa political event drew even more attention, though, including a segment on ABC’s Good Morning America show. The fateful photo of Republican State Representative Ross Paustian might have been a footnote to a long Iowa House debate on a collective bargaining bill. But because the lawmaker was apparently reading a book called Sex After Sixty, the photo went viral and could easily become what Paustian is most remembered for when his political career is over. I enclose below background, Paustian’s explanation and a few thoughts on the sometimes cruel nature of politics.

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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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Frank Wood, Ross Paustian rematch coming in Iowa House district 92

Via John Deeth’s blog I learned that former Republican State Representative Ross Paustian announced plans last week to run for the Iowa House again in 2014. Paustian fell short in his 2008 challenge to Democratic State Representative Elesha Gayman. When she did not seek re-election in 2010, he defeated Democratic opponent Sheri Carnahan by more than 1,500 votes. Former Democratic State Senator Frank Wood defeated Paustian last year by more than 700 votes, despite being outspent heavily during the campaign. In fact, Wood was the only Iowa House Democratic candidate who won in 2012 despite having unanswered television commercials run against him.

Wood confirmed this morning by telephone that he plans to seek re-election in House district 92. His rematch against Paustian will likely be among a dozen or so races that determine control of the Iowa House in 2015 and 2016. Neither party has a strong voter registration advantage. As of September 2013, House district 92 contained 6,563 registered Democrats, 5,993 Republicans, and 9,813 no-party voters. President Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney in the district by roughly 54 percent to 45 percent. On the other hand, midterm election year turnout often favors Republicans.

Given Paustian’s success in 2010, I expect House GOP leaders to invest heavily in recapturing this seat. As a “fifth-generation farmer and past president of the Scott County Farm Bureau and Scott County Pork Producers,” Paustian should receive plenty of conservative interest group funding too.

Wood has strong ties in the community as a former mayor of Eldridge and an associate principal at North Scott High School. He is also a district director in one region of the Iowa High School Athletic Directors Association and a past “Athletic Director of the Year” for the Mississippi Athletic Conference. This year Wood served as the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee.

A detailed map of House district 92 is after the jump. The redistricting plan adopted in 2011 only slightly changed the configuration of the district, which covers part of Davenport, several rural townships in western Scott County, and the towns Eldridge, Blue Grass, and Walcott.

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