GOP primary likely in Iowa Senate district 39

A competitive Republican primary seems likely in Iowa Senate district 39, an open seat that will be one of the most important statehouse races in 2014. Michael Moore of Washington County has already launched his campaign, and two Republicans in Johnson County are thinking about the race. Royce Phillips is a former mayor and current City Council member in Tiffin. He is also pastor of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Coralville. At a fundraiser for Johnson County Supervisor John Etheredge earlier this month, Phillips spoke publicly about a possible candidacy in Senate district 39. He confirmed by telephone today that he is familiarizing himself with the district and has had a "positive response" so far. Phillips added that he is more familiar with the House district 77 half of the district (which is in Johnson County) than with House district 78 (all of Keokuk and most of Washington Counties). I've posted a district map after the jump. Phillips has been active in local Republican politics for many years. He endorsed Mike Huckabee before the 2008 Iowa caucuses and Rick Santorum during the last election cycle.

Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee member Bob Anderson has also been mentioned as a possible candidate in Senate district 39. He told me today that he is "analyzing" and "considering it seriously" but did not specify a timetable for announcing a decision. Anderson has also been active in Republican politics for a long time and chairs is the past chair of the Johnson County GOP Central Committee. He is one of the few GOP State Central Committee members who did not publicly endorse a presidential candidate before the 2012 Iowa caucuses.

No Democrat has yet announced plans to run in Senate district 39. State Senator Joe Bolkcom told the Iowa City Press-Citizen's Adam Sullivan recently, "We're working on recruitment there now. It's on our list of likely opportunities to pick up a seat."

Iowa Senate district 39 photo IowaSD39_zpsf8fc525a.jpg

  • Courthouse dynamics

    favor a Washington County candidate. It's a historically GOP county and they're going through some courthouse turmoil at the  moment-bad enough that the county attorney is refusing to represent or advise the supervisors. The root issue is zoning; a tea partyish anti-zoning faction knocked off some incumbents last year.

    So that makes the Washington County Republican primary a hot race, and while people are there they're voting for Moore.

    Meanwhile up here in the People's Republic the opposite is true. We elected a Republican supervisor in a March special election, and odds are he doesn't survive a general election, so there's an open slot for a Democrat. There's a also a zoning fight but the core of that is outside SD39. That'll keep most voters (other than the core GOP activists) in the Democratic primary.

    I'd never vote for Royce Phillips for a partisan office but he's a really nice guy doing a good job in non-partisan office in Tiffin. Very friendly on a personal level with a lot of us Dems.

    • even without that courthouse dynamic

      I'd bet on a Washington County candidate in a primary against two people from Johnson County. If it's one on one, that could be more competitive.

  • Dems

    I know a Dem who said he was interested in running for this seat before Greiner retired.  He's about 30-31 years old.  He's going back to school in the fall so I think he was just looking for his latest project.  I could be wrong thought.  

    • I don't think a primary would be bad

      Two or three Democrats working the territory next spring couldn't hurt, as long as the primary doesn't get too ugly.

  • Dem in the Senate #39 race?

    Got a call 2 days ago from Richard Gilmore, Washington County Dem. He told me he was running for Senate District #39. Check out his email address:

    Richard Gilmore

    gilmore39senate@gmail.com

    • thanks for that tip

      Will check him out. Makes sense for Democrats to find a candidate in Washington County to prevent the GOP from running up the score in that part of the district.  

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