Linn County Republican Party co-chair Cindy Golding won the GOP nomination for the November 8 special election in Iowa Senate district 18 tonight. To my surprise, Golding won enough votes on the first ballot against Mary Rathje and Matt Dummermuth.
UPDATE: Republicans will need a new candidate for the Cedar Rapids suburban swing district in 2012, even if Golding wins this year's special election. Details are at the end of this post.
Click here for background on Golding, Rathje and Dummermuth. Only Golding has prior experience as a candidate; she lost the 2002 GOP primary to Kraig Paulsen in House district 35. Fifty delegates from Senate district 18 participated in tonight's nominating convention. Their votes were weighted based on how many votes were cast in each precinct for the 2008 GOP nominee in Senate district 18. Golding received 51.64 percent of the vote, with Dummermuth a distant second at 28.14 percent. Rathje received 20.22 percent.
The voting delegates weren't put off by Golding's $50 donation to Democrat Ed Fallon's 2006 gubernatorial campaign. Her long history of activism in local politics and business associations should be enough evidence of her conservative bona fides.
I didn't expect Rathje to finish in third place. She was rumored to be the favored candidate of Governor Terry Branstad and Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, who represents half of Senate district 18.
After winning the nomination, Golding described Democratic candidate Liz Mathis as a "formidable opponent." Mathis has never run for office before, but she is widely known in the greater Cedar Rapids metro area.
Craig Robinson pointed out this week,
Golding lives in the western portion of Senate District 18 as it is currently constructed. If she wishes to be more than a temporary fill-in, she would have to move in order to continue representing the district after the 2012 elections.
The "old" Senate district 18 looks like this:
The winner of the November 8 election will need to run in the new Senate district 34 in 2012. The redrawn district looks like this:
At the district convention, Rathje's nominator argued that it was important to have a candidate from Marion, a Cedar Rapids suburb that is the largest municipality in Senate district 18. Swati Dandekar, the Democrat who resigned last week, lives in Marion, as did her Republican predecessor Mary Lundby.
Democratic candidate Mathis lives near Robins, which is part of both the current district 18 and the new district 34.
The Iowa Democratic Party sent out an e-mail blast Thursday urging activists to help canvass in Linn County on September 24. The Iowa GOP has also started mobilizing volunteers for this campaign. Because control of the Iowa Senate is at stake, this special election campaign may become the most expensive state legislative race in Iowa history. Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn has predicted $1 million in total spending. I would expect a higher total if you include money outside groups and political action committees will spend on this race.
Any comments about the special election are welcome in this thread.
UPDATE: Even if Golding wins this November, Linn County Republicans will need to find a new candidate in the Marion area in 2012. In his live chat of the nominating convention, Craig Robinson reports that Golding confirmed she would not move into Senate district 34. Instead, she would seek re-election in the new Senate district 48. State Representative Nate Willems will be the Democratic candidate there. Republican Dan Zumbach of Delaware County has already formed a campaign committee to run in Senate district 48. Here's a close-up view of that district:
SECOND UPDATE: Todd Dorman writes,
I went into the convention thinking Rathje was probably the favorite, with the apparent backing of Gov. Branstad and other top Republicans.
But during questioning, it became clear that Golding was the most articulate, enthusiastic, prepared and polished candidate. Rathje seemed pretty nervous at times totally unprepared for a grilling. Dummermuth is a smart, thoughtful and accomplished guy, but, how can I put this gently, he's got an enthusiasm/emotion deficiency. [...]
Anyway, Golding mopped up. If there hadn't been Q&A, it might have been different, or at least a tighter vote.
I think Golding could be a fairly formidable candidate. You'd better get used to hearing the numbers 4 and 6. She and her husband have four businesses and six children. She noted that, oh, about 174 times.
She has some Statehouse lobbying experience tied to her work with the National Federation of Independent Business and the Farm Bureau. [That] helped her be more conversant on state issues than her rivals, like when she explained that school reform and property tax reform are linked.
THIRD UPDATE: Branstad's spokesman Tim Albrecht confirmed on September 23 that the governor had encouraged Rathje to seek the GOP nomination.