It's a nail-biter in Iowa House district 90. Democrat Curt Hanson carried Jefferson County, which includes Fairfield. Republican Stephen Burgmeier ran up a big margin in Van Buren County. A few precincts remain to be counted in Wapello County, and Hanson leads by about 200 votes, but I can't tell whether the absentee ballots have already been reported.
I'll update this post later with more results, but I invite other Bleeding Heartland readers to post links in the comments if final returns become available before I can get back to my computer.
Turnout was reportedly high for a special election, but I don't know what that means in terms of percentage.
UPDATE: Democrats will retain a 56-44 majority in the Iowa House for the 2010 session. From the Secretary of State's office: There were 8,046 total votes (I had heard predictions that 6,000 to 7,000 people would vote in this race). Hanson won 3,932 votes (48.9 percent), and Burgmeier 3,825 votes (47.5 percent). Click the link for the breakdown by county. Only four votes separated the two candidates in Wapello County. Jefferson County was the key for Hanson--he led by more than 600 votes there, while Burgmeier led by just over 500 votes in Van Buren County.
Conservative Dan Cesar of the Fourth of July party got just 40 votes, but independent candidate Douglas Phillips got 242 votes. I have no idea what kind of campaign he was running or which candidate he drew support from. (NOTE: Commenters at The Iowa Republican blog say Phillips was running as a social conservative. He got about 9 percent of the vote in Van Buren County.)
I received this statement from Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan:
FAIRFIELD, IA - "I congratulate Curt Hanson on a successful campaign. His was a local campaign about local issues, and it is not surprising he was successful. Curt will make an excellent addition to the Democratic majority in the Iowa House. Congratulations to Speaker Murphy, Majority Leader McCarthy and the staff of the Iowa Democratic Party, for their outstanding effort and teamwork, and the victory that has followed.
"Democrats have been successful in the last two election cycles and tonight because we have recruited great candidates, followed through on the promises we've made and are governing the state responsibly.
"We will continue to build upon this strong organization and team approach as we prepare for statewide elections next fall. Tonight's results don't change our strategy for 2010. Tomorrow we will get back to work on candidate recruitment, fundraising and organizing. We have every reason to expect continued success."
I was nervous about this race, but Bleeding Heartland user American007 was right on the money, predicting a Hanson victory today and observing more than a month ago, "never underestimate the power of a well-liked local teacher in politics."
SECOND UPDATE: A few more thoughts come to mind. Once again, the Democrats' superior plan for banking early votes made the difference in a statehouse race. No doubt absentee ballots will remain a crucial part of both parties' GOTV next year.
This result should make it easier for Democratic leaders in the Iowa House and Senate to keep their caucuses in line next year regarding marriage equality. Republicans will use every procedural trick in the book to try to force floor votes on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. If Burgmeier had won, some Democrats in tough districts might have been more inclined to support the Republicans on procedural votes of this kind.
Tonight's result must be very disappointing for Iowa Republicans, who invested a lot of resources in this race and were hoping a victory would boost their candidate recruitment and fundraising going into next year. The GOP has suffered net losses of seats in the Iowa House and Senate for the last four elections. Burgmeier was well-known in the district as a Jefferson County supervisor and was thought to have a lot of crossover appeal. Republicans have been beating the war drum over tax and spending issues, while the National Organization for Marriage ran ads for Burgmeier because of his support for overturning same-sex marriage. You would think that this message would be successful in the middle of a recession and just a few months after the Iowa Supreme Court ruling went into effect.
THIRD UPDATE: Statements from Governor Chet Culver, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn and Iowa House minority leader Kraig Paulsen are after the jump.
"Lieutenant Governor Judge and I want to congratulate Curt Hanson on his win tonight, and we look forward to working with him in the legislature in 2010. We also want to recognize Stephen Burgmeier and his local supporters for running a strong campaign.
"This election was important because voters in District 90 saw through the attempts by outside organizations to spread misinformation about our state. That's because Iowans know the facts: the budget is balanced; Iowa's fiscal health is strong; our cash reserves are high; we are the 4th best state in which to do business; and we have the 8th fastest growing economy. I'm glad voters in Southeast Iowa are sending Curt Hanson to Des Moines to work with legislative leaders and me in our effort to create good jobs, strengthen our economy, and keep moving Iowa forward."
"While we are disappointed, the fact that Republicans nearly won a solid Culver-Obama legislative district shows that Iowans are not pleased with the status quo and one-party rule in Des Moines.
Today's results do not change the fact that over 100,000 Iowans are out of work, that the Governor's massive spending and debt programs are not creating sustainable jobs, and that state spending has increased nearly 20% under his watch. This is the record for which Governor Culver and majority Democrats will have to answer as we prepare for the 2010 elections."
"While we're disappointed in the outcome of this race, it is not a surprise. This seat has been a Democrat stronghold for six years.
"House Republicans will continue to develop real solutions for Iowa's families and businesses and stand-up for responsible and transparent budgeting."