Review of progressive local election victories around Iowa

Democrats around the country had a lot to celebrate last night, including a “tidal wave” in Virginia, total control of state government in New Jersey, a vote to expand Medicaid in Maine, and a special election that gave the party a majority in the Washington State Senate. Voting rights may be expanded soon in several states, Ari Berman wrote today at Mother Jones.

Many progressive Democrats scored victories in Iowa’s non-partisan local elections as well.

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Update on Iowa Senate district 41 race

Davenport business owner Roby Smith formally announced yesterday his plans to challenge State Senator David Hartsuch in the Senate district 41 Republican primary, Ed Tibbetts reported in the Quad-City Times. Smith will not run as a moderate like former Senator Maggie Tinsman, whom Hartsuch defeated in the 2006 primary. He said he shares Hartsuch’s views on abortion and same-sex marriage but will emphasize a “pro-business” and “pro-education” stance. Smith will campaign as a more electable Republican; he said yesterday that “Democrats smell blood in the water.”

Two Democrats, Rich Clewell and Dave Thede, have already announced plans to run in this Scott County district, which is evenly divided politically. A takeover would be fantastic for long-term Democratic prospects of holding the Iowa Senate, as Republicans only have a handful of strong pickup opportunities this year in my opinion. Democrats currently hold 32 of the 50 Senate seats.

Speaking of competitive Iowa Senate races, does anyone know whether Republicans have declared candidates against Rich Olive in Senate district 5 or Becky Schmitz in Senate district 45? If so, please post a comment in this thread or e-mail me: desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com.

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Another Democrat will run in Iowa Senate district 41

Iowa Senate Democrats will need to play a lot of defense this year, but as I’d hoped, it looks like we will be making a serious play for Senate district 41. First-term incumbent Dave Hartsuch has more in common with Steve King than with the moderate Republicans who have long flourished in Scott County.

The Des Moines Register reported yesterday that Democrat Rich Clewell will run against Hartsuch:

Clewell has served on the Davenport school board since 2001 and now is vice president. He’s a wildlife biologist who recently retired from the federal Department of Defense. He has a bachelor’s degree from Iowa State University and is an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam.

He can be contacted at (563) 359-4598 or clewell4senate@gmail.com.

About six weeks ago educator Dave Thede switched parties and announced plans to run against Hartsuch as a Democrat. Speaking to Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times,

[Clewell] said the state faces difficult economic challenges and his collaborative nature would be a benefit at the Statehouse. He also said the state shouldn’t lose sight of long-term needs, including education. […]

Clewell said his school board experience includes working with other boards and on legislative issues.

He said he and Thede hold many of the same views but a primary would “pinpoint where there are differences.” He said he couldn’t say what those are now, but he added he wouldn’t be critical of Thede’s relative newness to the party.

Meanwhile, Davenport businessman Roby Smith plans to challenge Hartsuch in the GOP primary. I haven’t seen any report indicating whether Smith will run as a moderate alternative. Whatever the outcome of the primaries, this seat should be competitive in the fall; Tibbetts notes, “Each party has about 13,200 registered voters [in Senate district 41]. Independents outnumber both by 3,600 people.”

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