Iowa Senate district 18 election day news and discussion thread (updated)

Today’s forecast calls for rain and cold temperatures in Linn County as Iowa Senate district 18 voters determine whether the Senate will remain Democratic-controlled for the 2012 session or deadlocked at 25-25. The weather doesn’t seem bad enough to be a significant factor, but if it does keep some voters home, that’s probably good news for Democrat Liz Mathis. She continues to lead Republican Cindy Golding in early voting.

The latest absentee ballot numbers and other news clips from the special election campaign are after the jump.

UPDATE: New absentee numbers for Senate district 18 are below.

UPDATE: Shortly after 4 pm on November 8, the Linn County Auditor’s Elections office released new absentee ballot numbers for Senate district 18 voters only:

8,677 ballots issued to residents of Senate district 18:

4,283 (49.3 percent) went to registered Democrats

2,185 (25.2 percent) went to Republicans

2,200 (25.4 percent) went to no-party voters

Nine went to to voters with some other registration.

Meanwhile, 7,607 absentee ballots had been returned from Senate district 18 residents as of 4 pm on November 8:

3,808 (50.1 percent) came from registered Democrats

1,998 (26.3 percent) came from Republicans

1,796 (23.6 percent) came from no-party voters

Five came from voters with some other party registration.

At the close of business on November 7, the Linn County Auditor had issued 10,250 absentee ballots county-wide. Roughly 90 percent of the ballot requests have come from residents of Senate district 18. The rest are from voters planning to participate in other local elections taking place today.

Of the 10,250 ballots issued:

5,016 (48.9 percent) went to registered Democrats

2,727 (26.6 percent) went to Republicans

2,495 (24.3 percent) went to no-party voters

Twelve went to to voters with some other registration.

At the close of business on November 7, the Linn County Auditor’s office had received 8,609 absentee ballots for today’s election. That number includes people who voted early in person at the auditor’s office as well as those who filled out their absentee ballots at home. The returned ballots broke down as follows:

4,335 (50.4 percent) came from registered Democrats

2,343 (27.2 percent) came from Republicans

1,924 (22.4 percent) came from no-party voters

Seven came from voters with some other party registration.

Golding has a lot of ground to make up today, especially if the no-party absentee voters have leaned toward Mathis. Bleeding Heartland user albert analyzed Senate district 18 absentee voting trends last week and found, “The precinct-level view suggests that a successful effort is underway to galvanize younger independent voters to participate in this election.”

I got a laugh out of Governor Terry Branstad’s remark at yesterday’s press conference that it will be an “uphill battle” for Golding. Citing the “short window” of the special election campaign, the governor said:

“I believe that the Republican candidate, Cindy Golding, has a great background and great business experience and is a hard worker, but also I think she has a considerable name recognition disadvantage,” Branstad said. […]

“When you look at special elections, they are not much of an indicator … they’re an indicator of that particular district at that point in time,” he said. “So I don’t think people should read too much into it but obviously we’ll see.”

I have to believe Branstad would be speaking more confidently and would have spent more political capital on this race if his preferred candidate, Mary Rathje, had been the GOP nominee. Rathje came up short at the district nominating convention in September.

Family Research Council Action scheduled a “Values Voters Bus Tour” stop in Marion yesterday to GOTV for Golding. National Organization for Marriage Executive Director Chris Plante was on board, and Iowa Independent posted video from the event. Golding emphasized that her campaign is about many issues:

The media has made it [marriage] a single issue, not us. We want to talk about all of the things that the Senate stalled, the 83 percent of the issues that were bipartisan issues that the Senate refused, that Senator Gronstal refused to bring to the floor.

It is the [Cedar Rapids] Gazette and the media that has made this a single issue, and I want to encourage our voters, don’t vote on a single issue. Vote on all those other values that are important to you, that makes Iowa as great as it has been, and as great as it can be in the future. It is not a single issue, it is one of several issues that bring us together to change this state.

We need to get everybody out to vote tomorrow. We have a chance to change this state, and it’s not one issue, it’s 83 percent of the bills that pass the [Iowa] House that we don’t get to debate on the floor of the Senate.

Lynda Waddington’s video from that rally is on YouTube here.

Meanwhile, the Citizens United Political Victory Fund PAC paid for robocalls targeting 35,000 voters in Iowa Senate district 18 yesterday. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee recorded the robocalls using this script:

Hi this is former Governor Mike Huckabee calling for Citizens United Political Victory Fund to urge you to vote for Republican Cindy Golding on Tuesday for State Senate to represent you and the other fine folks there in the 18th District. With Cindy Golding in Des Moines, Republicans will wrestle control away from the big spending Democrats and put us one step closer to getting our fiscal House in order and most importantly to start getting Iowans working again. With our economy struggling to get back on track, now more than ever America, and especially Iowa, needs a problem solver in government- not another celebrity! And there’s only one real problem solver and job creator in the race to be your next state senator and that is Republican Cindy Golding- that’s why I urge you to vote Cindy Golding…Republican for state senate.

Paid for by Citizens United Political Victory Fund. WWW.CUPVF.COM. And

not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s committee.

Iowa law requires candidates to file campaign disclosure reports by the Friday before election day. Mathis reported more cash on hand and more in-kind contributions (pdf) going into the final weekend than Golding did (pdf).

The Cedar Rapids Gazette editorial board endorsed Mathis Sunday, citing her “stronger grasp of education issues” and capacity to “grow into the job, build relationships and become a strong advocate for her district.” While the board praised Golding’s “strong grasp of issues related to business growth,” the majority of members felt concerned that

Golding’s more strident stands will make it harder for her to reach across the aisle and forge the compromises that will be needed in a closely divided Legislature.

We’re also troubled by Golding’s call for holding a vote on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages in Iowa. This editorial page has stood strongly for the right of gay and lesbian Iowans to enjoy civil marriage rights. The fact that Golding would risk those constitutional rights in a divisive public vote to, as she said, take the “spotlight” off Iowa, gave us pause.

The marriage issue tipped the scales for Gazette columnist Todd Dorman, a Senate district 18 resident:

I was initially critical of Mathis’ reluctance to say the ruling was a good thing. But a reader pointed out to me that of the 28 Linn County precincts that voted to toss out three Supreme Court Justices last fall, 22 are in District 18. Perhaps Mathis deserves more credit than I gave her for defending the ruling.

Golding deserves no credit for her stand. It would be wrong to put Iowans’ hard-won civil rights to a vote simply to turn off a spotlight or change an uncomfortable subject. And it’s groups supporting Golding, including the Family Leader and National Organization for Marriage, that keep that spotlight burning bright. She should tell them to turn it off.

And civil rights debates simply don’t end once and for all.

Unlike taxes and education, which likely will be decided in negotiations far above Golding or Mathis’ legislative pay grade, this is an issue of individual conscience. Does Iowa’s Constitution protect all of us, or just some of us? Is equal protection a sacred contract or a popularity contest? Not important? I disagree. This is about more than a marriage license.

It’s the sort of issue that Mary Lundby wouldn’t shy away from when she represented this district. And Golding’s stand does not pass the Mary Lundby test.

Lundby represented Iowa Senate district 18 until her retirement in 2008. She was one of four Iowa Senate Republicans who voted against a constitutional amendment on marriage in 2004. At the time, Republicans held a 29-21 Senate majority, but the four no votes meant the amendment failed to pass, 25-25. If Lundby and the others had not stood their ground, Iowa voters would likely have approved a constitutional amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman years ago. The Varnum v Brien case would never have been filed, and the Iowa Supreme Court would never have struck down the state’s Defense of Marriage Act.

Any comments about Iowa Senate district 18 or local elections anywhere in Iowa are welcome in this thread.

Four candidates are competing for two seats on the Windsor Heights City Council. All of them have plentiful yard signs and have been canvassing, making phone calls or both. I’m voting for incumbent Steve Peterson and challenger Kerry Bowen.

UPDATE: Local media are reporting on ugly robocalls made yesterday, purporting to be from marriage supporters and asking which “homosexual acts” Mathis endorses. The Golding campaign distanced itself from the calls, while the National Organization for Marriage blasted “calls that were so offensive they clearly were designed to turn voters away from Cindy Golding because she supports marriage between one man and one woman.” This story from KGAN (the CBS affiliate in Cedar Rapids) doesn’t indicate which voters were targeted.

Lynda Waddington posted audio from several robocalls made in the Senate district 18 race–but not the one claiming to come from “Citizens for Honesty and Sound Marriage.”

SECOND UPDATE: The LGBT advocacy group One Iowa released the following statement about the controversial robocalls:

Marion, IA-Voters in Senate District 18, the site of the special election to fill an empty Senate seat and whose outcome will determine control of the state Senate, have reported receiving disturbing and offensive robocalls. The National Organization for Marriage and The Family Leader claim that these calls were targeting anti-equality advocates are a “dirty trick” designed to affect the election.

“These types of dirty tricks have no place in Iowa, and it is disturbing and unfortunate that NOM and the Family Leader would claim that proponents of marriage are behind these calls,” said Troy Price, One Iowa Executive Director.  “By sending mailers into the district focused on marriage and bringing their bus to Marion, they are the ones who have injected marriage into this race, and no one else. If they really want to get to the bottom of this, they should look no further than their own back yard.”

About the Author(s)


  • Iowa City and Johnson County

    Three contests, one is unopposed. At large: 20 year old Raj Patel has a realistic shot at being the first student (as in 18-24 year old) elected in 32 years. He’s up against Michelle Payne of MidAmerican energy, who has solid backing from Iowa City’s old guard; libertarian Jarrett Mitchell, best known for supporting in-city chicken coops, and incumbent Matt Hayek. Hayek was way ahead in the primary and Mitchell way behind, so the battle for seat 2 is between Payne and Patel.

    In the district A race doctor Rick Dobyns is favored over radio host Steve Soboroff. Both have lost previous tries. Dobyns was one of the leaders of the pro 21 side in the Bar Wars of 2007 and 2010; Soboroff is emphasizing the cities anti-student attitude but is not doing a lot of conventional campaigning.

    Jim Throgmorton, who served two years in the mid-90s, is unopposed in the district C race (the whole city votes on district races).

    I voted Soboroff, Throgmorton, Patel and a write in.

    But the biggest fight is in the surrounded enclave of University Heights, where the redevelopment of a church property has polarized the city for two years. You know how nasty zoning fights get? Imagine an entire generation of zoning fight focused on the only vacant lot in town. Presidential level turnout is possible.

    Other highlights: contested mayor races in Coralville, Hills and Tiffin and a Solon bond issue.

    • I've met Jim Throgmorton

      Great guy. Should be an asset to the city council.

      • he was and will be

        A handful of Soboroff supporters were miffed that he endorsed Dobyns and are urging a write in but that’s not a live round. The UI higherups are solidly behind Hayek and Dobyns and tacitly for Payne.

        Turnout is running low.  

    • Iowa City results

      For the Iowa City Council:

      Hayek and Payne – At large,

      Dobyns – District A,

      Throgmorton – District C.

      Turnout was 14.77%, or 7569 voters.

      (See the Johnson County Auditor’s website for the full results.)

      Payne beat Patel by less than 400 votes, and she won 3-2 on election day to overcome Patel’s lead in early votes.  Patel underperformed compared to Throgmorton and Dobyns, and I think there are just a lot of Dems who are nervous about electing a student.

      In University Heights the turnout was nearly 60%, but I don’t know the candidates well enough to tell which faction won.

  • The buses crack me up

    Who can forget the big purple judge bus? How tacky was that? Now the “values” bus. Are Iowans particularly receptive to political messaging on buses?

    Where I come from, buses serve to transport paying passengers, ranging from individuals to sports teams from point A to point B.

    Liz Mathis also has been running a two-minute ad the last couple of days.

    Polls are open until 9 PM. /tapping foot.

  • Todd Dorman

    tells us that he voted four hours ago at Wilkins Elem, voter #164.

    This corresponds to Marion 2-2. In 2010, 1656 total voted, 555 by early voting/absentee.

    As of last night, we have 485 early voters in the precinct. Here is the breakdown, with 2010 numbers in ():

    Dem   237 (233)

    NP      109 (102)

    Rep   139 (220)

    when the final nrs come in, we should see total absentees close to 2010 levels.

    So that leaves 1101 who voted in person 2010. TD is at 164 at 10:30, 3.5 hrs after the polls opened and presumably near the end of the  morning rush.

    I think we will see all over the place that early voting approached/exceeded 2010 while polling day remained below. And as far as the early voting is concerned, elevated Dem vs depressed (relatively) R. As long as a reasonable nr of Dems/Dem-leaners show up to vote today, this is a win based on early voting. This assumes that MR 2-2 is fairly representative, of course.

    • if that's the case

      I don’t see how Golding can overcome a 2000 or so vote deficit on election day.

      People often debate whether early GOTV banks additional votes or simply collects votes early from people who would have voted on election day anyway, but those no-party numbers suggest Mathis supporters have been banking votes from people who otherwise would not necessarily have voted in an odd-numbered election year.

      • yes,

        I think whenever you have an especially dirty last minute GOTV trick, it represents desperation. The Golding folks claim that it was to make her look bad, but it seems unlikely that the Mathis folks would need to resort to this.

        When/if Mathis wins, lots of people will want to claim credit, but bottom line, credit goes to Sue Dvorsky/IDP for cool-headed management and hard work, and to all the ground troops. I read a list of canvassers at IowaPolitics (I think), and it was impressive, especially the union help as I recall. Just about every Dem-leaning group was involved.

        For such a short campaign, the early voting was important.

        I think the cheering should be short-lived, though, and back to work. This election has revealed a lot of negatives for Dems as well. They can’t find a candidate w/ district name recc for every race, and they can’t call in the troops from neighboring areas as easily during a regular election cycle.

        Early voting resembles early collection more during a regular cycle, esp as people get accustomed to it, but it does free up Dems to focus on matching Reps on polling day turnout.

      • another piece of evidence

        that the enhanced NP returns from Marion precincts were more Dem-inspired is from an article I read at the UIowa paper. Remember Natalie Ginty, college Republican? Hint: F U Republicans. Anyway, she was out with some fellow college Republicans very late October … in rural Linn.  

  • It looks to me

    as though the absentees favored Mathis 72-28.

    People are reporting this as the first 1% of precincts in, but I don’t think so. First, this exceeds registered voters. Second, can’t think of a precinct that would yield this result. Third — add up the total votes (7570) and it matches reported ballots turned in this afternoon (7607).

    What did I tell ya?

    • yes,

      I just remembered — for non-GOV/PREZ races, Iowa reports absentees as one precinct.

      The nrs have been updated to:

      5426 Mathis

      2110 Golding

      42 Tack

      this is the absentees, almost guaranteed.

      People are calling the tiny correction a rural precinct. LOL