Where the Iowa statehouse Democrats are

Iowa was among only 12 states in which Democrats lost no seats in Congress on November 2. The others were mostly on the east or west coasts: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont. Seeking to explain the survival of Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell despite Iowans’ rejection of Governor Chet Culver and three Supreme Court justices, Marc Ambinder credited “a stellar, caucus-honed Democratic ground game.” Des Moines-based political consultant Jeff Link suggested the early voting was crucial.

I agree that early voting helped Braley, Loebsack and Boswell, but if the Democratic ground game were as good as it was supposed to be, we should have lost fewer Iowa House and Senate seats. Assuming recounts don’t change the results, Democrats lost six state Senate seats and 17 state House seats, gaining only one Republican-held House district for a net loss of 16 in the lower chamber.

It will take a long time to sort out why the Democratic GOTV program didn’t contain the state legislative losses at a lower level. First, it’s worth looking closely at where our statehouse candidates succeeded and failed. A list of Iowa House and Senate seats Democrats held before and after the elections, divided by Congressional district, is after the jump.

1st Congressional district

12 counties in east and northeast Iowa

Before the election, Democrats held 16 House districts and 8 Senate districts.

Andrew Wenthe, HD 18

Bob Kressig, HD 19

Doris Kelley, HD 20

Kerry Burt, HD 21 (retired)

Deborah Berry, HD 22

Gene Ficken, HD 23

Roger Thomas, HD 24

Tom Schueller, HD 25

Polly Bukta, HD 26 (retired)

Chuck Isenhart, HD 27

Pat Murphy, HD 28

Ray Zirkelbach, HD 31

Phyllis Thede, HD 81

Elesha Gayman, HD 84 (retired)

Jim Lykam, HD 85

Cindy Winckler, HD 86

Bill Heckroth, SD 9

Jeff Danielson, SD 10 (not up for re-election)

Bill Dotzler, SD 11

Brian Schoenjahn, SD 12 (not up for re-election)

Roger Stewart, SD 13 (retired)

Pam Jochum, SD 14 (not up for re-election)

Tom Hancock, SD 16 (not up for re-election)

Joe Seng, SD 43

In the next legislature, Democrats will hold 11 House seats and seven Senate seats.

Andrew Wenthe, HD 18

Bob Kressig, HD 19

Anesa Kajtazovic, HD 21

Deborah Berry, HD 22 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Roger Thomas, HD 24

Mary Wolfe, HD 26

Chuck Isenhart, HD 27

Pat Murphy, HD 28

Phyllis Thede, HD 81

Jim Lykam, HD 85 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Cindy Winckler, HD 86

Jeff Danielson, SD 10

Bill Dotzler, SD 11

Brian Schoenjahn, SD 12

Tod Bowman, SD 13 (pending recount)

Pam Jochum, SD 14

Tom Hancock, SD 16

Joe Seng, SD 43

2nd Congressional district

15 counties in eastern and southeastern Iowa

Before the election, Democrats held 14 House seats and nine Senate seats.

Nate Willems, HD 29

Dave Jacoby, HD 30

Kirsten Running-Marquardt, HD 33

Todd Taylor, HD 34

Tyler Olson, HD 38

Mary Mascher, HD 77

Vicki Lensing, HD 78

Nathan Reichert, HD 80

Dennis Cohoon, HD 88

Larry Marek, HD 89

Curt Hanson, HD 90

Jerry Kearns, HD 92

Mary Gaskill, HD 93

Kurt Swaim, HD 94

Bob Dvorsky, SD 15

Wally Horn, SD 17

Rob Hogg, SD 19

Swati Dandekar, SD 18 (not up for re-election)

Joe Bolkcom, SD 39

Tom Courtney, SD 44 (not up for re-election)

Becky Schmitz, SD 45

Gene Fraise, SD 46 (not up for re-election)

Keith Kreiman, SD 47

In the new legislature, Democrats will hold 12 House seats and seven Senate seats (possibly eight if a recount overturns Mark Chelgren’s 12-vote lead over Keith Kreiman in SD 47).

Nate Willems, HD 29

Dave Jacoby, HD 30 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Kirsten Running-Marquardt, HD 33

Todd Taylor, HD 34

Tyler Olson, HD 38 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Mary Mascher, HD 77 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Vicki Lensing, HD 78 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Dennis Cohoon, HD 88

Curt Hanson, HD 90

Jerry Kearns, HD 92

Mary Gaskill, HD 93

Kurt Swaim, HD 94

Bob Dvorsky, SD 15 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Wally Horn, SD 17 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Rob Hogg, SD 19 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Swati Dandekar, SD 18

Joe Bolkcom, SD 39 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Tom Courtney, SD 44

Gene Fraise, SD 46

3rd Congressional district

12 counties in central and eastern Iowa

Before, the election, Democrats held ten House seats and five Senate seats.

open seat HD 41 (incumbent Paul Bell died)

Geri Huser, HD 42

Jo Oldson, HD 61

Bruce Hunter, HD 62

Janet Petersen, HD 64

Wayne Ford, HD 65 (retired)

Ako Abdul-Samad, HD 66

Kevin McCarthy, HD 67

Rick Olson, HD 68

Eric Palmer, HD 75

Dennis Black, SD 21

Matt McCoy, SD 31

Jack Hatch, SD 33

Dick Dearden, SD 34 (not up for re-election)

Tom Rielly, SD 38 (not up for re-election)

In the new legislature, Democrats will hold eight House seats and five Senate seats. Only one of the House seats and two of the Senate seats are outside the city of Des Moines.

Dan Kelley, HD 41

Jo Oldson, HD 61

Bruce Hunter, HD 62 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Janet Petersen, HD 64

Ruth Ann Gaines, HD 65

Ako Abdul-Samad, HD 66 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Kevin McCarthy, HD 67

Rick Olson, HD 68

Dennis Black, SD 21

Matt McCoy, SD 31

Jack Hatch, SD 33 (didn’t have GOP opponent)

Dick Dearden, SD 34

Tom Rielly, SD 38

4th Congressional district

28 counties in central, north and northeast Iowa

Before the election, Democrats held 12 House seats and eight Senate seats.

Marcella Frevert, HD 7 (retired)

Dolores Mertz, HD 8 (retired)

McKinley Bailey, HD 9

Sharon Steckman, HD 13

Mark Kuhn, HD 14 (retired)

Brian Quirk, HD 15

John Beard, HD 16

Mark Smith, HD 43

Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, HD 45

Lisa Heddens, HD 46

Donovan Olson, HD 48

Helen Miller, HD 49

Jack Kibbie, SD 4 (not up for re-election)

Rich Olive, SD 5

Amanda Ragan, SD 7

Mary Jo Wilhelm, SD 8 (not up for re-election)

Steve Sodders, SD 22 (not up for re-election)

Herman Quirmbach, SD 23

Daryl Beall, SD 25

Staci Appel, SD 37

In the new legislature, Democrats will hold seven House seats and six Senate seats.

John Wittneben, HD 7

Sharon Steckman, HD 13

Brian Quirk, HD 15

Mark Smith, HD 43

Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, HD 45

Lisa Heddens, HD 46

Helen Miller, HD 49

Jack Kibbie, SD 4

Amanda Ragan, SD 7

Mary Jo Wilhelm, SD 8

Steve Sodders, SD 22

Herman Quirmbach, SD 23

Daryl Beall, SD 25

5th Congressional district

32 counties in northwest, southwest and south-central Iowa

Before the election, Democrats held four House districts and two Senate districts:

Wes Whitead, HD 1 (retired)

Roger Wendt, HD 2 (retired)

Mike Reasoner, HD 95

Paul Shomshor, HD 100

Steve Warnstadt, SD 1 (retired)

Mike Gronstal, SD 50 (not up for re-election)

In the new legislature, Democrats will hold two House districts and one Senate district:

Chris Hall, HD 2

Dan Muhlbauer, HD 51 (won open seat after Rod Roberts retired and Republicans nominated the worst candidate ever)

Mike Gronstal, SD 50

All in all, not a pretty picture. It appears that the Democratic early voting and GOTV efforts were not targeted well enough in the contested Iowa House and Senate districts. Jeff Link has a different hypothesis:

Why didn’t the Iowa state house and senate candidates benefit [from early voting] in the same way [as Braley, Loebsack and Boswell]? Legislators and candidates are less known than Iowa’s members of Congress. In addition, the state candidates didn’t begin advertising until the final 10-14 days. Again, since 30% of the electorate voted before knowing them at all, they were more susceptible to the Republican surge.

Bleeding Heartland readers, please share your own thoughts and theories about the state legislative races here.

  • didn't begin advertising soon enough?

    In my district both the legislative candidates made efforts to reach absentee voters as soon as the ballot request was filed.  That’s better than advertising.  

    It didn’t work for Dems as well as they expected it to work.  These techniques do not replace substantive campaigns.  Iowa House Dems were advised to “be boring”,  to hide their views in some cases. Braley did not do that!

    I think incumbency is the key but only if the voters know the incumbent well enough to respect him/her.  I wonder if any of the defeated incumbents were really well-known in their districts.

    Money matters, too.  Who spent the most?  In my district’s open seat the Repubs outspent the Dems by 10-1.  Guess who won!

  • A lot to digest here

    I can’t really speak with a lot of good experience given that I’m not in a swing district, but Jerry Kearns did have a fairly low re-election number.  I voted for Jerry and will do so with pride again, but I kind of got the feel that people here are getting tired of voting D here consistently and then not getting as much as I think they should in return.

    Jeff Danielson is likely to have a tough race no matter what redistricting does.  It will be interesting to see what Democrats could get thrown in against each other.  These kind of primary skirmishes can be fun to people who like the horse race of politics, but I hope people cast their votes on who has better constituents services as opposed to who is more “progressive” with their voting records. in the primary elections.

    • A lot of them had low re-elect numbers

      Murphy below 52 percent for starters.

      Hard to look ahead to 2012, since so much depends on the district lines. Take Swati Dandekar–she could be in real trouble in 2012, or the map could make her new district more Democratic than the current one.

      Other Senate Democrats likely to be targeted in 2012 include Rielly, Gronstal, Rielly, Hancock and Sodders. If Kibbie retires that will be a difficult hold for us.

      I think Danielson took a lot for granted in 2008. After almost losing then and seeing Doris Kelley lose this year, he should be ready to work hard in 2012.

  • my two cents

    Legislative Democrats (from experience) do a solid job of directly contacting absentee voters as soon as they get their ballots, but there were significant upticks in straight ticket voting on the Republican side coupled with national winds pushing independents.  These can swing races 1-2% pretty easily, and in a year like this one….a number of races were decided by razor thin margins.

    I think it’s more of a question of a lack of communication from Lange & Miller-Meeks with early voters – that lack of name ID coupled with the partisan registration advantage held by Loebsack and Braley helped a great deal, in my opinion.  Legislative candidates are more of a “blank slate” and regardless of how much direct contact you do you can get swamped by a tide.

    • in one Iowa House district we lost

      I heard there were around 1,800 ballots with nothing marked but straight Republican on the front and no on the three Supreme Court judges on the back. Everything else blank.

  • Stark stat

    Gronstal=the ONLY Dem senator from King’s ENTIRE district.

    • in the last decade

      have we ever had more than two Dem senators from that district?

      I am disappointed that Warnstadt picked this year to retire. I think he could have held SD 1. Mullin only lost by a couple hundred votes.

  • Maps

    Based on desmoinesdem’s lists, here are some maps I came up with to show where the democrats are (and, unfortunately, where they used to be).

    Iowa House control before the 2010 election:

    Old House

    Iowa House control after the 2010 election:

    Old House

    ***

    Iowa Senate control before the 2010 election:

    Old Senate

    Iowa Senate control after the 2010 election:

    New Senate

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