Can Josh Byrnes escape a GOP primary challenge in Iowa House district 51?

Since last summer, many Iowa politics watchers have had Republican State Representative Josh Byrnes on retirement watch. However, he announced this week that he will seek a third term in Iowa House district 51. After the jump I’ve posted a district map and Byrnes’ re-election statement.

Democratic candidate Laura Hubka has been actively campaigning for months. She’s facing a relatively strong incumbent in this district, which covers Howard, Mitchell, Worth, and part of Winneshiek Counties along Iowa’s northern border. Byrnes was comfortably re-elected in 2012 even as President Barack Obama won more than 55 percent of the vote in House district 51. The latest totals from the Secretary of State’s office indicate that the district contains 5,765 registered Democrats, 6,470 Republicans, and 8,643 no-party voters.

Although I have not heard of any Republican planning to challenge Byrnes, three factors make me suspect he will not get a free pass in the GOP primary.

1. Byrnes is the leading Iowa House proponent of raising the gasoline tax, a popular view among some rural constituencies but not in the Republican base. He even taunted the advocacy group Iowans for Tax Relief after this year’s subcommittee hearing, where the gas tax bill advanced.

2. While many Iowa House Republicans are quietly satisfied to see a constitutional amendment on marriage die in the funnel for two years running, to my knowledge Byrnes is still the only person in his caucus who openly supports same-sex marriage rights.

3. Last year Byrnes was one of just two GOP legislators to support the Democratic position on expanding Medicaid in Iowa. (The other one, Brian Moore, represents the most Democratic-leaning Iowa House district Republicans now control.)

It will be a St. Patrick’s Day miracle if no anti-tax zealot, social conservative, or “Liberty” activist steps up to challenge Byrnes by the March 14 filing deadline.  

UPDATE: Amazingly, no other Republican filed papers to seek the GOP nomination in House district 51.

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Supreme Court marriage linkfest: Federal DOMA doomed?

Today the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in United States v. Windsor, a challenge to the constitutionality of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act. Unlike yesterday’s hearing on California’s same-sex marriage ban, this case will affect many Iowans directly. The court’s ruling on DOMA will determine whether thousands of married LGBT couples in Iowa are eligible for benefits granted to married citizens under federal law.

Lots of links are after the jump, but the enduring sound bite from the day will surely be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s comment: “You’re saying […] there are two kinds of marriages, the full marriage, and this sort of skim milk marriage.”

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Supreme Court marriage linkfest: Prop 8 case (updated)

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in Hollingsworth v. Perry, the challenge to California’s constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriages. Proposition 8 passed by popular referendum in 2008.

Many links about today’s hearing and possible outcomes are after the jump. A separate post will cover tomorrow’s Supreme Court arguments in the challenge to the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

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