Iowa’s new map of political boundaries paired House Democrats Roger Thomas and Andrew Wenthe in the new district 55. Instead of facing off in a primary, the two incumbents announced today that Wenthe will retire and Thomas will run for re-election in 2012. A district map and background on both representatives are after the jump.
The new House district 55 includes most of Winneshiek County, about half of Fayette County and a small area of Clayton County, including Elkader:
The district leans Republican in terms of voter registration, with 5,909 Democrats, 6,694 Republicans, and 7,269 no-party voters as of April 2011.
Thomas was first elected to the Iowa House in 1996. In 2000 he ran unsuccessfully for the Iowa Senate, but he returned to the state House following the 2002 election in what was then district 24. Thomas was barely re-elected in 2010 by just 122 votes against Republican Mike Breitbach. He is currently the ranking member of the Economic Growth Committee.
I am not aware of a declared Republican candidate yet in the new House district 55. Breitbach decided to run in the new Senate district 28 instead.
To carry House district 55, Thomas will need strong Democratic turnout, especially in his hometown and in the Decorah area of Winneshiek County. He may benefit from Representative Bruce Braley’s GOTV efforts, since the counties in House district 55 are all part of the new first Congressional district.
I enclose Wenthe’s retirement announcement and the first campaign statement from Thomas below. Their agreement means that no Iowa House Democratic incumbents will face each other in 2012 primaries. Another potential pairing was resolved when State Representative Kurt Swaim decided to retire rather than run in the new House district 82. Fellow Democrat Curt Hanson also lives in that district and will seek re-election in 2012.
So far the only confirmed Iowa House primary involving two incumbents will happen in the new district 50, where three-term Republican Pat Grassley faces two-term Republican Annette Sweeney. Iowa politics junkies will be watching that race closely as a proxy war between U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (Pat Grassley’s grandfather) and major GOP donor Bruce Rastetter (a friend of Sweeney’s since childhood). A two-incumbent GOP primary is also possible in the new Senate district 46, where Jim Hahn is seeking re-election and Shawn Hamerlinck hasn’t announced his plans.
December 21, 2011:
THOMAS ANNOUNCES RE-ELECTION BID FOR IOWA HOUSE
Elkader, Iowa — State Representative Roger Thomas, D-Elkader, announced today that he will seek re-election in the new House District 55 which includes Fayette, Winneshiek, and Clayton Counties in 2012.
“It is a great honor to serve the people of Clayton, Fayette and Delaware Counties and I look forward to meeting the people of my new district. My top priority is to help middle class families and small businesses by creating jobs and balancing the budget without raising taxes on homeowners,” said Thomas.
Thomas is currently serving his seventh term in the Iowa House. He serves as the Ranking Member of Economic Growth and Rebuild Iowa committee, and holds positions on Agriculture, Veterans Affairs, and Ways and Means committees, as well as the Transportation Committees and Infrastructure and Capitals Appropriations Budget Subcommittee.
“During my time in the legislature I have worked hard to listen to the people of my district and keep focused on the issues important to them. I will continue to be an advocate for rural Iowa by promoting a prosperous agricultural climate and expanding new ways to improve economic development opportunities,” added Thomas who works with small businesses in Elkader as the Elkader Economic Development/Main Street Elkader Director.
Thomas graduated from Valley Community School in Elgin and entered the United States Air Force. After serving our country, Thomas returned his family to Iowa and to start a small business in Wadena. Thomas and his wife, Rosemary now live on the family farm west of Elkader. They have three grown children and four grandchildren. Thomas attended Upper Iowa University in Fayette with a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration. In recent years, Roger was a business consultant for Iowa Workforce Development in Decorah.
Due to redistricting required every ten years by the United States Census, Representative Roger Thomas and Representative Andrew Wenthe were placed in the same legislative house district. Representative Wenthe has decided not to see re-election. Thomas is familiar to the new district having already previously served the people of Fayette for two terms.
State Representative Andrew Wenthe of Hawkeye today said that he will not seek re-election to the Iowa House in 2012. Wenthe cited professional and personal reasons for his decision.
“It has been a great privilege and sincere honor to serve the people of Fayette, Black Hawk, and Bremer Counties in the Iowa House. I am proud of the work we have done over the last several years and I look forward to continuing this work during the 2012 session. While I have decided not to seek election to the new House District 55 next year, my passion for public service remains and I will continue to be involved in our community,” said Wenthe, who served three terms in the Iowa House.
Wenthe is the Vice President for External Affairs at Upper Iowa University, where he is responsible for community and economic development and administration of the Upper Iowa Businesses Development grant, which provides financial assistance to new and expanding small businesses in Fayette. He grew up on the family farm outside Hawkeye and currently resides in West Union. He and his wife, Elissa, are expecting their first child next year.
“I grew up in Fayette County and I’ve chosen to raise my own family here. I’m excited to take on new challenges at Upper Iowa University where my focus will continue to be working with others to improve the quality of life for northeast Iowans,” added Wenthe.
“I know the people of Fayette County will be well-served by State Representative Roger Thomas who shares my passion for helping rural communities thrive and grow. He has my full support and we can trust him to work for us in the Iowa House,” said Wenthe, who was paired with Rep. Thomas, D-Elkader, in the same district due to redistricting.
FEBRUARY 2012 UPDATE: Spillville Mayor Michael Klimesh announced plans to run against Thomas in House district 55. Kilmesh lost to Democratic State Representative Brian Quirk in 2010.