Iowa House district 41: Jo Oldson's and Eddie Mauro's pitches to voters

UPDATE: Oldson won this race by a 67 percent to 33 percent margin.

One of the most closely-watched state legislative results tonight will be the contest between seven-term State Representative Jo Oldson and Democratic challenger Eddie Mauro in Iowa House district 41. The district covering parts of the west and south sides of Des Moines contains more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans, so the winner of today’s primary will almost certainly be elected in November, even if the GOP nominates a candidate late here. (No one filed in time to run in the GOP primary.)

Both campaigns have been working the phones and knocking on doors for months. Iowa’s two largest labor unions, AFSCME and the Iowa Federation of Labor, as well as the National Abortion Rights Action League have been doing GOTV for Oldson, as have a number of her fellow Iowa House Democrats. As of May 24, the early voting numbers in House district 41 were higher than for any other state House race.

Bleeding Heartland posted background on Oldson and Mauro here. I’ve encouraged my friends in the district to stick with Oldson. She has been a reliable progressive vote on major legislation, and she was among only thirteen House Democrats to vote against the costly and ineffective 2013 commercial property tax cut. I have no problem with an entrenched incumbent facing a primary challenge. No one is entitled to hold a legislative seat for life. But even if women were not already underrepresented in the Iowa House—which they are and will continue to be—I would need a better reason to replace a capable incumbent than the reasons Mauro has offered in his literature and in an interview with me last month. Excerpts from that interview are below, along with examples of campaign literature Democrats in House district 41 have been receiving in the mailbox and at the doorstep.

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Steve King explains what he needs to hear before endorsing Donald Trump

Representative Steve King is "not ready" to endorse Donald Trump for president yet, he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on May 17. The seven-term Republican who represents Iowa’s fourth district was Senator Ted Cruz’s top surrogate here before the Iowa caucuses. Speaking to the Des Moines Register earlier this month, King indicated that he would be inclined to support Trump if the billionaire becomes the Republican presidential nominee in July. At that time, King said, "I’m keeping my powder dry and I want to see what Donald Trump has to say. This is a difficult thing for a lot of people to swallow, but I don’t want to encourage them to jump on the Never Trump bandwagon and I don’t want to encourage an alternative candidate."

During yesterday’s CNN interview, King spelled out more clearly what needs to happen for him to endorse Trump’s candidacy.

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Iowa Senate district 4 preview: Dennis Guth vs. Susan Bangert

When the filing deadline passed for major-party candidates to run in Iowa’s June 7 primary, seven Republican state senators up for re-election this year had no challengers: Randy Feenstra (Senate district 2), Dennis Guth (Senate district 4), Mark Segebart (Senate district 6), Mark Costello (Senate district 12), Amy Sinclair (Senate district 14), Tim Kapucian (Senate district 38), and Ken Rozenboom (Senate district 40). Recruitment continued, as special district conventions may nominate candidates for seats where no one filed in time to be on the primary ballot.

Based on 2012 election results and incumbent weirdness, the most potentially competitive of the uncontested GOP-held Iowa Senate seats was arguably Guth’s. Democrats announced on April 25 that Susan Bangert will run in Senate district 4. I enclose below a map of this district and details about its recent voting history, along with background on Guth and Bangert.

Also on Monday, Dennis Mathahs confirmed plans to drop out of the Democratic primary in Iowa House district 75 in order to run against Kapucian in Senate district 38. A future post will preview that race.

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One Iowa House Republican's strange and lonely battle against marriage equality

Seven years have passed since the Iowa Supreme Court struck down our state’s Defense of Marriage Act. The Republican-controlled Iowa House failed to approve a constitutional amendment to overturn that court ruling more than three years ago. Fewer than a quarter of GOP state representatives were willing to co-sponsor the marriage amendment in 2015. Even if Iowa lawmakers tried to turn back the clock on marriage equality, the effort would be futile, since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that all states must recognize marriages between same-sex couples.

Nevertheless, one Iowa House Republican won’t let this fight go. Today he seized on an unusual and futile way to register his discontent with the Iowa Supreme Court’s Varnum v Brien decision.

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How did this Iowa state senator escape a primary challenge?

State legislative incumbents typically are unchallenged for their party’s nomination, but every election cycle, some hopefuls take on sitting members of the Iowa House or Senate in a primary election. This year, nine Iowa House members (four Democrats, five Republicans) will face competitive primaries. Sometimes these long-shot candidates just want to serve in the legislature, like State Representative Kevin Koester’s GOP opponent in House district 38. Brett Nelson has run for the Iowa House more than half a dozen times.

Other primary challengers are motivated by ideology, like the Liberty-oriented former Congressional candidate Bryan Jack Holder. Wearing an 18th-century style tri-corner hat, he filed this year against State Representative Greg Forristall in House district 22.

Some challengers have a specific bone to pick with the incumbent. Conservative Dave Hartsuch ousted State Senator Maggie Tinsman, one of the last pro-choice Republicans to serve in the Iowa legislature, in a 2006 GOP primary. Hartsuch proved too extreme for his district and fell to Roby Smith in a primary four years later.

Occasionally, an incumbent who appears destined to fight for his party’s nomination ends up in an uncontested primary. In what I deemed a St. Patrick’s Day miracle two years ago, State Representative Josh Byrnes drew no GOP challenger despite having publicly supported marriage equality, Medicaid expansion, and a gasoline tax increase.

This year’s escape artist serves in the Iowa Senate, where no incumbents have any competition on the primary ballot. How he managed to avoid a battle with the far right is completely beyond me.

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Reflection on a Five Year Anniversary

The video of Zach Wahls speaking at that 2011 public hearing went viral and inspired thousands of Iowans who supported equality. Although Zach did not dissuade Iowa House Republicans from approving a state constitutional amendment on marriage the following day, Democrats in control of the Iowa Senate held the line. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Yesterday (January 31) marked the fifth anniversary of a three-minute speech that I delivered to the Iowa Legislature about growing up with gay parents. It was the first time I’ve celebrated an anniversary of this speech knowing that no speech like it will ever have to be given again in this state or country, following the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling.

I had no idea when I stepped up to that microphone just how much the world would change in the next five years.

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