Ed Tibbetts of the Quad-City Times reports that Ross Paustian will again challenge State Representative Elesha Gayman in Iowa House district 84. In 2008, Gayman defeated Paustian by about 800 votes, 52.4 percent to 47.4 percent.
It was a dispiriting loss for Republicans on several levels. Paustian led election-night returns until the massive number of absentee and early votes were added to the tally. Gayman was considered vulnerable as a first-termer in a traditionally Republican county. Conservative groups had poured tons of money into negative ads against Gayman. An organization funded by Mid-American Energy, RJ Reynolds and other corporations began running commercials against Gayman and a few other Iowa House Democrats in early 2008. The Republican Party spent heavily in the district too. Shortly before election day, the American Future Fund ran new ads against a group of House Democrats including Gayman. Still, Paustian came up short.
House district 84 didn’t turn out to be one of the closest Iowa legislative races last year, but I expect a Gayman/Paustian rematch to be highly competitive. Democratic turnout tends to be lower in non-presidential years, and Republicans may benefit from an “enthusiasm gap” in 2010. The unemployment rate in Scott County was nearly 7 percent in August 2009 and could be higher next year. The Scott County GOP has an ambitious new chairman, Brian Kennedy. He is raising more money and trying to build a bigger grassroots organization. Gayman and State Representative Phyllis Thede (House district 81) are certain to be targeted.
On the plus side, Gayman was very involved in Barack Obama’s campaign before and after the Iowa caucuses, and since July of this year she’s been consulting for the Iowa Federation of Labor’s Working Iowa Neighbors program. In other words, she has plenty of friends in a position to help her get out the vote. Also, Paustian is a farmer, and as Bleeding Heartland user American007 has noted, Iowans seem to be electing more white-collar professionals and fewer farmers to the legislature these days.
There’s always a chance that the job market will improve significantly before next fall, although jobs tend to be a lagging indicator, and Iowa tends to be slow to come out of recessions.
Bleeding Heartland readers, how would you handicap a Gayman/Paustian rematch?