2008 was a good election for Iowa Democrats, but we still lost several very close statehouse races. In House district 37 (map here), Republican Renee Schulte defeated first-term incumbent Art Staed by 13 votes (0.07 percent).
This week Cedar Rapids attorney Mark Seidl announced his plans to run in this district and laid out his priorities:
"Although no one would have wished for any of them, the natural, fiscal, and economic disasters that have struck us in recent years present unique opportunities for rethinking each level of our government," Seidl said. "In going forward, we must concentrate on reconstituting and enhancing our advantages-recreating two cities which are an essential part of Iowa's character, conserving our tremendous natural resources in agriculture and renewable energy production, and preparing the next generation of Iowans to be leaders and innovators in the future."
This district is winnable in light of Schulte's tiny margin of victory and a slight Democratic voter registration advantage. Nevertheless, Seidl will need to pound the pavement to win back this seat. Schulte is a hard worker who was out door-knocking last Friday, 11 months before the election when the temperature was in the 20s. Also, Schulte may benefit from an "enthusiasm gap" if Democratic voters are demoralized and Republicans energized next November.
Schulte bucked the majority of her party by voting for a bill that allowed authorities to impose a local option sales tax in disaster areas. Linn County voters approved the 1-cent tax in March, and the proposal received a majority of votes in Cedar Rapids as a whole. I don't know whether it carried the Cedar Rapids precincts that are in House district 37.
I suspect that in this district, much will depend on how voters perceive the effectiveness of the state's response to the 2008 floods.
UPDATE: Schulte is already organizing volunteers to help with voter contacts. We will need all hands on deck in this district.