Three Iowa House Democrats face active primary challengers

In March, six candidates filed papers to challenge Iowa House Democrats in the June 8 primary. A labor-backed challenger to State Representative Geri Huser filed in House district 42 (east side of Des Moines and Altoona) but withdrew from the race before the March 19 filing deadline, thereby taking his name off the ballot.

Another primary challenge soon became irrelevant as State Representative Kerry Burt decided not to seek re-election in Iowa House district 21 (Waterloo). Burt has endorsed the woman who challenged him, Anesa Kajtazovic.

Now the Cedar Rapids Gazette reports that John Stellmach has ended his campaign in Iowa House 30 (Coralville) because of a serious medical condition his wife is facing. Stellmach is a past president of the AFSCME union local for University of Iowa workers. He was challenging State Representative Dave Jacoby, who has generally supported pro-labor legislation but opposed a watered-down “fair share” bill during the 2010 session.

Though Burt’s and Stellmach’s names will remain on the June 8 ballot, their withdrawal from the race leaves little doubt about the outcome.

That leaves three Iowa House Democrats still facing active primary challengers. A socially conservative pastor, Clair Rudison, is running against Ako Abdul-Samad in district 66 (Des Moines). Rudison is expected to emphasize his anti-gay marriage and anti-abortion stances, but I don’t know how actively he is campaigning. Abdul-Samad has already started door-knocking, as have many other Iowa legislative incumbents.

I don’t know why Kenneth Oglesby is challenging Chuck Isenhart in district 27 (Dubuque) or why Mike Petersen is running against Mary Gaskill in district 93 (Ottumwa). I would encourage Bleeding Heartland readers in any of the above districts to post a comment or a diary about these primary campaigns. What case are the challengers making against the incumbents, and are those challengers working hard to get their messages out? If you would rather contact me off-blog about these campaigns, feel free to e-mail me (desmoinesdem AT

Diaries about any state legislative races are welcome at any time.

Last year I expected a few primary challengers to file against members of the “six-pack” who blocked key legislative priorities for organized labor. Some activists tried to recruit Democratic opponents against them. But as I mentioned above, Huser’s challenger withdrew. No challenger materialized against any of the other five: Dolores Mertz (retiring from House district 8), McKinley Bailey (district 9), Larry Marek (district 89), Doris Kelley (district 20) or Brian Quirk (district 15).

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  • What I hear

    Petersen is an odd story: He was a county supervisor who resigned to take a county manager job in Minnesota, then two months later was back in Ottumwa with no explanation.

    I believe Oglesby is a student, it seems like one of those naive stories like “I want to get involved so I’ll start by running for the Legislature, and this happens to be where I live.” We had one like that against Dick Myers once and he lost 80-20.