Weekend open thread: Big Iowa GOP changes

The Republican Party of Iowa and the Iowa Democratic Party held district conventions yesterday. Nothing particularly important happened at the Democratic conventions, but the GOP gatherings continued the march toward overthrowing the “Liberty” faction that gained control soon after the 2012 caucuses. No one from the Ron Paul orbit won a seat on the newly-elected State Central Committee, which will take over after the party’s state convention in June. They are likely to replace Danny Carroll and Gopal Krishna in the party’s top leadership positions.

I’ve listed the new State Central Committee members after the jump. Notable names include Governor Terry Branstad’s legal counsel Brenna Findley and William Gustoff, both elected to represent the third district. Gustoff is a partner in the law firm headed by U.S. Senate candidate Matt Whitaker and State Representative Chris Hagenow. In 2011, Branstad named Gustoff to the State Judicial Nominating Commission, but the Iowa Senate did not confirm him. Findley briefly was an attorney with Whitaker Hagenow after she left Representative Steve King’s staff to run for Iowa attorney general in 2010.

According to Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican blog, “Liberty” activists handed out flyers at all four district conventions urging delegates not to vote for fourteen State Central Committee candidates. All fourteen of them won seats on the committee anyway.

Another interesting development: the GOP platform committee in the first district removed the plank declaring marriage to be between one man and one woman. Katherine Klingseis reported for The Des Moines Register that the new platform language asserts the government should have no role in marriage. Some delegates tried and failed three times yesterday to restore the traditional marriage plank through amendments. UPDATE: According to conservative blogger Shane Vander Hart, one of the IA-01 convention votes on platform language went 116 to 89 to remove so-called “defense of traditional marriage” from the district GOP platform.

Kathie Obradovich wrote up the six IA-03 candidates’ pitches to Republican convention delegates. For now I consider it more likely than not that the nomination will be decided at a special district convention.

UPDATE: More thoughts on the Iowa GOP State Central Committee changes after the jump.

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Mike Gronstal sees eight competitive Iowa Senate races

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal is “fairly confident” going into this year’s state legislative elections, he told Mike Glover in a recent interview. He cited a “pretty good message” to take to voters as well as a “a slight advantage on the map” that will allow Democrats to play “a little less defense and a little more offense,” compared to 2012.

I agree with Gronstal that Democrats are better positioned now to hold their 26 to 24 majority in the upper chamber than they were at the same point two years ago. Follow me after the jump for a quick look at the eight districts the Senate majority leader expects to be targeted this fall.

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Five Iowa Senate races to watch in 2014

It’s the time of year for blog posts about notable candidates and upcoming elections. Every politically engaged Iowan knows already that 2014 will be an unusually exciting year. We haven’t seen an open U.S. Senate race since 1974. The last time Iowa’s first Congressional district was open was in 2006. The last time Iowa’s third Congressional district was open was in 2002, but it wasn’t a wide open seat, since incumbent Representative Leonard Boswell moved into Polk County to run. Amazingly, 1940 was the “last time there was a Congressional race in Polk County without an incumbent seeking re-election.” All of Iowa’s statewide elected officials are up for re-election as well this year, and the secretary of state’s position may become open if Matt Schultz decides to go for the Republican nomination in IA-03.

Since Bleeding Heartland readers already know about the big Iowa races to watch, I want to focus today and tomorrow on the elections that are likely to determine control of the Iowa House and Senate in 2015 and 2016.  

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Democrat Richard Gilmore launches Iowa Senate district 39 campaign

After laying the groundwork over the last couple of months, Richard Gilmore formally launched his campaign in Iowa Senate district 39 today. He is the first Democratic candidate in what will likely be among the most competitive Iowa Senate races in 2014. Gilmore previously ran for Washington County supervisor in 2012.

After the jump I’ve posted a map of the district and Gilmore’s announcement, containing background information. As of September 2013 (pdf), Iowa Senate district 39 contained 13,323 registered Democrats, 13,340 Republicans, and 16,276 no-party voters. Two candidates are seeking the Republican nomination for the open seat: Michael Moore and Royce Phillips. Longtime Johnson County GOP activist Bob Anderson is considering the race but has not announced his decision, to my knowledge. UPDATE: Anderson filed papers as a candidate for state Senate in September.

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GOP primary likely in Iowa Senate district 39

A competitive Republican primary seems likely in Iowa Senate district 39, an open seat that will be one of the most important statehouse races in 2014. Michael Moore of Washington County has already launched his campaign, and two Republicans in Johnson County are thinking about the race. Royce Phillips is a former mayor and current City Council member in Tiffin. He is also pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Coralville. At a fundraiser for Johnson County Supervisor John Etheredge earlier this month, Phillips spoke publicly about a possible candidacy in Senate district 39. He confirmed by telephone today that he is familiarizing himself with the district and has had a “positive response” so far. Phillips added that he is more familiar with the House district 77 half of the district (which is in Johnson County) than with House district 78 (all of Keokuk and most of Washington Counties). I’ve posted a district map after the jump. Phillips has been active in local Republican politics for many years. He endorsed Mike Huckabee before the 2008 Iowa caucuses and Rick Santorum during the last election cycle.

Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee member Bob Anderson has also been mentioned as a possible candidate in Senate district 39. He told me today that he is “analyzing” and “considering it seriously” but did not specify a timetable for announcing a decision. Anderson has also been active in Republican politics for a long time and chairs is the past chair of the Johnson County GOP Central Committee. He is one of the few GOP State Central Committee members who did not publicly endorse a presidential candidate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

No Democrat has yet announced plans to run in Senate district 39. State Senator Joe Bolkcom told the Iowa City Press-Citizen’s Adam Sullivan recently, “We’re working on recruitment there now. It’s on our list of likely opportunities to pick up a seat.”

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