Electors in Iowa Senate district 35 chose Jack Whitver on December 30 to run in the January 18 special election. Senate district 35 contains most of the northern half of Polk County. Whitver is a former Iowa State University football player who coaches for the Iowa Barnstormers arena football team, attends Drake University law school and owns a sports training business with locations in Ankeny, Urbandale, and Waukee. (Ankeny is the largest city in Senate district 35; Urbandale and Waukee lie outside the district.) Democrats will choose a candidate for this special election on January 3.
Six Republicans sought the nomination in this GOP-leaning district. The best-known were Kevin Koester, recently elected to a second term in Iowa House district 70, and Jim Gocke, a law partner of former State Senator Jeff Lamberti. Art Smith covered the nominating speeches and results from all five ballots at The Conservative Reader Iowa blog. The bottom candidate dropped out after each round of balloting, and Whitver finally received over 50 percent on the fifth round. Gocke led Whitver in the first and third ballots, but fell behind as more candidates were eliminated. Several GOP State Central Committee members who don't live in Senate district 35 had backed Matt DeVries, an activist with Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty. DeVries was eliminated after the fourth ballot.
I was surprised to read in Craig Robinson's post that only 34 of the 43 possible electors showed up to choose the Republican candidate for this special election. I know lots of people travel during the holiday season, but if you're interested enough in politics to be a district elector, why would you miss a rare opportunity to pick your next state senator?
Robinson put Whitver's nominating speech up on YouTube. It hits a lot of typical Republican talking points. For instance, according to Whitver, Iowa's budget isn't really balanced, because Democrats used one-time federal stimulus money to support the state budget. (Republicans will never understand that it was wise for states to use federal fiscal aid to get through the recession without devastating spending cuts, which would have been a further drag on the economy.) Whitver mentioned his 2006 candidacy against Ako Abdul-Samad in the overwhelmingly Democratic Iowa House district 66. From my perspective, the most interesting part of the speech began around the 2:50 mark:
I believe in term limits. If nominated tonight, I pledge right here, right now that I will serve no more than two terms in the Iowa Senate. I think that career politicians are one of the biggest problems that we have, and I think that getting rid of them are the single most effective way to eliminate the corruption, fix our political system and return our country to greatness.
Strange to rail against corrupt career politicians when your party's top-ticket candidates last month were Chuck Grassley and Terry Branstad. Grassley has spent 52 years in politics, including 30 in the U.S. Senate, and Branstad just sought and won a fifth four-year term as governor.
The Ankeny area is likely to tilt Republican for some time, and Whitver's a young guy. If he wins the race to succeed Larry Noble, as he will be favored to do, he may find it tempting not to step down after two terms in the Iowa Senate.