Weekend open thread: Candidate filing deadline edition

I’m posting the weekend thread early, because the filing period for primary election candidates in Iowa closed this afternoon. The Secretary of State’s Office posted the full list of candidates here (pdf). John Deeth has been covering the filing on a daily basis all month at his blog. Some highlights from races I’m watching are after the jump.

This is an open thread; all topics welcome.

UPDATE: Gotta agree with Senator Chuck Grassley: the History Channel is useless.

Congressional races

I was dead wrong yesterday. Democratic State Senator Joe Seng managed to collect enough signatures to qualify for the ballot in Iowa’s second Congressional district. That means three-term incumbent Dave Loebsack will have to deal with a competitive primary. So the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s robo-poll in IA-02 wasn’t a waste of money. UPDATE: Kevin Hall of The Iowa Republican blog says Seng’s nominating petitions wound up “at a few GOP county conventions” on March 10. Hall also comments, “I doubt Joe Seng can win, but he can beat up liberal Loebsack in the primary and force him to spend important time and treasure. Or Seng could pull off the upset. Either way, Iowans win.”

In 2008, many Democrats in the Iowa legislature savaged former State Representative Ed Fallon for running against Leonard Boswell in the IA-03 primary. Look for Seng to get a pass, because Democrats need him to get 26 votes for any bill in the Iowa Senate.

There weren’t any other surprises in the Congressional candidate filings, but I didn’t expect Steve King to challenge Christie Vilsack to six debates in the fourth district. The last few cycles, King has refused all invitations to debate his challengers.

In IA-01, Bruce Braley has two Republican challengers: I see on Facebook that Rod Blum is still taking shots at Ben Lange for not having an issues page on his website. Lange hasn’t directly criticized Blum, preferring to highlight his campaign organization instead.

In IA-02, only two of the three Republicans who declared a few months ago filed for the ballot: Dan Dolan and John Archer. Both have been campaigning frequently around the district. Archer was the first to go up on radio district-wide. He’s also taken a leave of absence from his job to run for Congress full-time.

Iowa Senate races

Democrats have candidates in 21 of the 26 Senate districts that will be on the ballot this November. Republicans have candidates in all 26 races, no matter how hopeless some of those districts look. I give them credit for not leaving any Senate Democrat unchallenged.

I am surprised that Council Bluffs Republicans didn’t recruit a stronger candidate to jump in against Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal at the last minute. Surely they could have done better than Al Ringgenberg in the new Senate district 8.  I had heard that Governor Terry Branstad was helping make calls to recruit someone else for this race, but if that’s true, whoever was courted didn’t take the bait. Fortunately for the GOP, they have a lot of other paths to 26 Senate seats.

There will be quite a few contested primaries on the Senate side. In the open district 4, Republicans James Black and Dennis Guth will compete to face Democrat Bob Jennings.

In the open district 6, Republicans Matthew Biede, Adam Schweers, and Mark Segebart will compete to face Democrat Mary Bruner.

In the open district 10, there is no Democratic candidate, so the winner of the GOP primary between Jake Chapman and Matthew Mardesen has a lock on the seat.

The open district 14, now held by retiring former Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley, will be quite a free-for-all. Three Republicans (Steve Everly, Stephanie Jones, and Amy Sinclair) and two Democrats (Dick Schrad and Jason Demichelis) are running.

I’m looking forward to watching the primary race between State Senator Pat Ward and Jeff Mullen in my home district, Senate 22. The winner will face Desmund Adams, who has been working hard despite the long odds for a Democrat in this suburban seat.

Democrats did find a candidate against Senate Minority Leader Jerry Behn in the new district 24. Shelly Stotts filed yesterday.

Lots of districts are up for grabs in northwest Iowa. Senate district 26 will feature the clash of two incumbents, Republican Merlin Bartz and Democrat Mary Jo Wilhelm.

As expected, Democrat John Beard and Republican Mike Breitbach will contest the open Senate district 28.

Republican Matt Reisetter is challenging Democrat Jeff Danielson in the new Senate district 30. Danielson squeaked by in 2008 by fewer than two dozen votes.

For ages I didn’t hear anything about a Republican challenger to Democrat Brian Schoenjahn in district 32, but Elliott Henderson filed for that seat today.

Randi Shannon is the only Republican challenger to Liz Mathis in district 34. Mathis won last November’s special election in the old Senate district 18.

As expected, two Republicans, Larry McKibben and Jane Jech, will compete to face Steve Sodders in the new district 36.

Three Democrats are running in the new district 38: LaForest Sherman, Shelley Parbs, and Nick Volk. Republican Tim Kapucian now holds that seat.

In the open district 42, two Republicans are running, Lee Harder and Larry Kruse. The general-election favorite will be the winner of the Democratic primary between Donna Amandus, Bob Morawitz, and Rich Taylor.

Republican Senators Shawn Hamerlinck and Jim Hahn will face off in the district 46 primary; the winner will run against Democrat Chris Brase.

Two Republicans filed in the open district 48: Brian Cook and Dan Zumbach. Cindy Golding, who lost to Liz Mathis in last November’s special Senate election, had considered running here but didn’t file. State Representative Nate Willems will be the Democratic nominee.

As expected, Democrats Rita Hart and Dorothy O’Brien are running in the new district 49, where Republicans have a strong candidate in Andrew Naeve.

Iowa House races

There will be competitive Republican primaries in 25 House districts. In 11 of those districts someone is challenging a sitting House Republican. Some of those seats are locks for the GOP in the general, others are long-shots. On balance I think it’s healthy for a party to have a lot of competitive primaries, but I can’t remember seeing so many challenges to incumbents. The bad news for House Speaker Kraig Paulsen is that lots of incumbents in safe Republican seats will spend campaign cash defending themselves in the primary. That means less money for leadership to direct to incumbents or challengers in swing districts.

The most interesting match-up by far will be the battle of House incumbents Annette Sweeney and Pat Grassley in the new district 50. That’s widely considered a proxy war between Bruce Rastetter, a childhood friend of Sweeney’s, and Senator Chuck Grassley, Pat’s grandfather.

Democrats have only five competitive House primaries lined up; that number could shrink if any of the candidates drop out in the near future.

Republican House incumbents who did not file for re-election: House Speaker Pro Tem Jeff Kaufmann, Kim Pearson, Glen Massie, and Dan Rasmussen. I wondered whether Rasmussen might bow out when I saw he had raised almost nothing in 2011 beyond the PAC donations that come automatically to every GOP state representative. Jim Givant will run in district 64, where Rasmussen lives. Kaufmann’s son Bobby is the GOP candidate in the new district 73. There will be competitive primaries to replace Pearson in district 30 and Massie in district 26.

I didn’t notice any surprise retirements on the Democratic side.

In the new House district 47, former Democratic State Representative Donovan Olson is seeking a rematch with Republican Chip Baltimore, who beat him by a couple dozen votes in 2010. The other rematch will be in the new district 58, where Democrat Tom Schueller is running against surprise 2010 Republican winner Brian Moore.

I didn’t notice any obvious recruiting failures for House Republicans. Democrats didn’t manage to line up challengers against some GOP incumbents in what should be swing districts. For now Lee Hein is unchallenged in in the new district 96, and so is Steve Olson in the new district 97.

Earlier today, Democrat Becky Perkovich filed in the new House district 48; I wondered whether Republican Rob Bacon would get a free pass there after Rich Olive bowed out of that race.

UPDATE: One of the GOP incumbents being primaried is House Majority Whip Erik Helland, no stranger to scandal and controversy. His challenger Jake Highfill claims Helland offered him a job to get him out of the race. I’m 90 percent sure the Iowa House Ethics Committee will punt, as usual–possibly on the grounds that they have no jurisdiction here. Highfill can still tell his story during the primary campaign, and his version doesn’t make Helland look good.

On Dec. 29, Highfill’s complaint alleges, he received a phone call and voice message from Helland asking Highfill to call him back. Highfill returned the call about five minutes later, and the two spoke for 28 minutes, according to phone records he provided the Register.

“Mr. Helland made a series of attempts to persuade me not to challenge him in the Republican Primary,” Highfill’s complaint alleges. “He talked about the money advantage he has, his seniority in the Iowa House, as well as his performance in the previous 2008 primary he was involved in against Al Lorenzen. Included in his attempts to persuade me not to challenge him were promising me multiple jobs, including, being a clerk in the Iowa House and working for a candidate or the Republican Party in the summer and fall. He repeatedly told me that I don’t want to challenge him and that I should abandon my campaign and gain experience by working for him and the Republican Party.”

Highfill said he did not respond to Helland’s offer immediately but sent Helland a text message several hours later reading, “I thank you for the offer but I am going to respectful (sic) decline. If you want me to call you I could later or tomorrow.”

Helland, a two-term incumbent who serves as whip for the House’s GOP caucus, immediately replied via text, “I have time now.”

In the phone conversation that followed, Highfill told the Register, Helland became “forceful,” “angry” and “confrontational.”

“Mr. Helland was noticeably unhappy with my decision not to accept his offer of employment in exchange of me not challenging him in the primary,” Highfill states.

In the complaint, Highfill interprets the offer as a bribe and an attempt to intimidate: Helland was “effectively attempting to appease me through bribery and threatening overtones of his superior position in Iowa Legislature,” he writes.

The complaint does not, however, specify exactly what law or ethics rule Highfill believes Helland violated.

Megan Tooker, executive director of the Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board, said she passed the complaint on to the House because its allegations did not violate the sections of Iowa law concerning campaign finance and lobbying, over which the board has jurisdiction.

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  • Biggest surprise

    for me today other than Seng qualifying – and it would be well worth checking those petitions carefully – is that with all the House Republican primary challenges, no one primaried Clel Baudler. He got on the wrong side of the gun lobby this session.

    • good point

      It is surprising that Iowa Gun Owners didn’t line someone up against Baudler, whom they despise:

      In a stunning act of betrayal that is becoming all too familiar to members of Iowa Gun Owners, the House Public Safety Committee under the control of notoriously anti-gun Chairman Clel Baudler, REFUSED to pass HF 2114 out of committee yesterday.

      This is the important bill that would preclude cities and counties from enacting local ordinances that restrict your gun rights more than state law does. As it currently stands, you can be arrested in a variety of counties and cities – even if you didn’t know about the abusive local ban.

      And last week, House leadership ensured that you and I are no further towards fixing that problem.

      The Republican Party controls this committee by a margin of 13 to 8. They can easily advance legislation of their choosing.

      You have to be pretty far out there to describe National Rifle Association board member Clel Baudler as “notoriously anti-gun.”

    • I want to know

      who/what organization helped Seng collect all those signatures. So far he’s not returning my call…

  • Since it is an open discussion....

    Coupla topics I’ve been wondering about as a newbee…

    1. What are the prospects for the Dems to make progress in the House…or even (should I even suggest it) take it back?  I’ve met some of the candidates and tho my frame of reference is limited, they seem to be pretty good, esp some really good women.  Additionally it seems redistricting may have helped the Dems.  I would use new House 40 as an example – a more favorable district for Dems combined with a really good candidate, John Forbes, make it plausible for freakin’ URBANDALE for gosh sakes to put a Dem in the House.

    2. What is the deal with the Gronstal race?  Al what’s his name has no money and i thought he didn’t even live in the district.  Yes, it’s March and the election is still 8 months away, but if the GOP targeted Gronstal, you’d think they would have a better candidate and he/she would be banking caish by now.  Is it still in play?  Did MG’s bankroll scare ’em off?  IS GOP infighting affecting that race?  Or maybe the GOP is being stealthy…they have a secret well organized plan…like they did in the Marion special Senate election.  ooops

    • Ringgenburg $

      Yeah, all he should have to do is say “I’m running against Mike Gronstal,” and the checks should be getting written before he even gets to “and my name is…”

    • stay tuned

      A post is in progress on the competitive Iowa House races–probably will go up Tuesday or Wednesday. Agree, Forbes is a strong candidate in a district Republicans “should” hold easily.

      I don’t know what happened in Council Bluffs. I guess the stronger candidates decided their chances of taking out Gronstal weren’t very good.

  • I thought it was Dan Dolan

    who went to the wrong party’s convention, but maybe he wasn’t the only one: Kevin Hall at TIR:

    “I’m not going to say Joe Seng took my advice in getting some Republican help to get enough signatures to primary liberal Loebsack, but my clandestine, ubiquitous informants tell me some of Seng’s petitions did wind up at a few GOP county conventions … No idea how they got there …”


    • btw

      kudos to jdeeth for his candidate rundowns. Good reads. And this not just Some Dude talkin’….

  • Seng has no shot

    Loebsack will smoke him in one county as he does to his general election opponent and win the election.  The only question here is how nasty will this get on both sides.  How many constituents will Joe Seng be accused of poisoning?  How many jobs will Seng claim were lost by Loebsack no votes on free trade agreements?  I doubt there will be much debate or rational discussion.