Republicans quietly nominated David Kerr in Iowa House district 88

Something strange happened in Iowa House district 88, which unexpectedly became an open seat last month. Less than two hours after State Representative Tom Sands disclosed on June 9 that he would not seek another term, Republicans announced that Jason Delzell would be a candidate in the district. The timing signaled that Delzell was Sands’ preferred successor and the GOP establishment’s choice for the nomination.

However, on June 23, delegates to a special convention nominated Louisa County farmer David Kerr instead. I didn’t hear that news until late last week, because in contrast to past practice when state legislative seats have been open, the Iowa GOP did not announce the special convention date in advance, nor did they send out a statement afterwards on the convention results. Some journalists were informed after the fact that Kerr was nominated, because a press release about him appeared in the Muscatine Journal and Quad-City Times on June 24.

That statement said nothing about a contested race for the GOP nomination, but Delzell confirmed a few days ago via e-mail that he did not withdraw his candidacy and “fought to the end” on June 23. I don’t know how close the vote was. From what I can gather, no journalists attended the special convention, so I assume none were informed about it in advance. For whatever reason, Republicans did not want to draw attention to this event. I have not seen any statement indicating whether Sands endorsed Kerr or lobbied on his behalf.

I enclose below some background on Kerr, along with a map of House district 88. Democrats are poised to nominate Ryan Drew for this House race, though a special convention has not yet been held. Both parties are likely to target House district 88, which contains 5,566 active registered Democrats, 6,397 Republicans, and 6,775 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney here by 50.9 percent to 47.9 percent in 2012.

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Iowa House district 88 to be open seat; Tom Sands won't seek re-election

Iowa House Ways and Means Committee Chair Tom Sands announced today that he will withdraw his name from the general election ballot in House district 88. In a statement, Sands expressed pride in his efforts to be a “strong voice for the taxpayers of Iowa” and support “common sense budget principles.” He added, “Now it’s time to return to my family and put my sole focus back on them.” First elected to the Iowa House in 2002, Sands has chaired the powerful Ways and Means Committee since Republicans regained the majority in the 2010 elections.

For those wondering whether this incumbent bailed out to avoid being dragged down with Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket, Sands was running unopposed. I do not recall seeing any public statements by him about Trump. He did not endorse a presidential candidate before the Iowa caucuses.

I hope Sands does not have any major health or family problems. The last time an entrenched Iowa House incumbent decided during the summer not to run for re-election, very unfortunate circumstances were in play. (That former lawmaker was eventually acquitted of charges brought soon after he announced his retirement.) UPDATE: Added more comments below from this story by O.Kay Henderson.

Special Republican and Democratic nominating conventions sometime this summer will select candidates for House district 88. Although no Democrat challenged Sands in 2014 and none filed to run against him this year, Democrats will surely find a candidate now. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that the district contains 5,566 active registered Democrats, 6,397 Republicans, and 6,775 no-party voters. President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney here by 50.9 percent to 47.9 percent. Hard-working challenger Sara Sedlacek fell short in her 2012 race against Sands by 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent, but it’s almost always easier to pick up an open seat than to defeat an incumbent.

I enclose below a map of House district 88, covering most of Des Moines County outside the cities of Burlington and West Burlington, all of Louisa County, and a large area in Muscatine County, not including the city of Muscatine. Trump narrowly carried all of those counties in the Iowa Republican caucuses, and his supporters may be angry that Sands did not announce his retirement in time for an open GOP primary race to succeed him. On the flip side, West Liberty and Columbus Junction have large Latino communities. A strong anti-Trump turnout there could help the Democratic candidate in the Iowa House race.

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Never let it be said that the 2016 Iowa legislature accomplished nothing

In four months of work this year, Iowa lawmakers made no progress on improving water quality or expanding conservation programs, funded K-12 schools and higher education below levels needed to keep up with inflation, failed to increase the minimum wage or address wage theft, let most criminal justice reform proposals die in committee, didn’t approve adequate oversight for the newly-privatized Medicaid program, opted against making medical cannabis more available to sick and suffering Iowans, and left unaddressed several other issues that affect thousands of constituents.

But let the record reflect that bipartisan majorities in the Iowa House and Senate acted decisively to solve a non-existent problem. At a bill-signing ceremony yesterday, Governor Terry Branstad and supporters celebrated preventing something that probably never would have happened.

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Iowa House Republicans try to evade accountability on medical cannabis

What do state lawmakers do when they don’t want to pass something the overwhelming majority of their constituents support?

A time-honored legislative strategy involves 1) keeping the popular proposal from coming up for a vote, and 2) giving your members a chance to go on record supporting a phony alternative.

Iowa House Republicans executed that statehouse two-step this week in order to block efforts to make medical cannabis more widely available to Iowans suffering from serious health problems.

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