Iowa House district 33 special election update

Three candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination in Iowa House district 33, which Kevin McCarthy has vacated to take a position in the Attorney General’s Office. Because this district contains 8,142 registered Democrats, 3,334 Republicans, and 5,273 no-party voters, the Democratic nominee is almost guaranteed to win the October 22 special election.

After the jump I’ve posted background on Karl Schilling, Joe Henry, and Felix Gallagher, who are seeking to replace McCarthy, plus details on how the Democratic nominating convention will be conducted on September 4. Regardless of who wins the nomination, I hope all three candidates will compete in next year’s Democratic primary. On principle, I don’t believe ten people on a party central committee should decide who represents 30,000 people in the Iowa House.

I also enclose below a map of House district 33, which covers parts of south and southeast Des Moines.

UPDATE: On August 20 Schilling and Henry dropped out of the race after Des Moines City Council member Brian Meyer announced that he will seek the Democratic nomination for House district 33. Meyer will be the heavy favorite going into the September 4 convention, even if Gallagher stays in the race. I’ve enclosed Meyer’s press release at the end of this post.

Karl Schilling announced his candidacy less than an hour after McCarthy announced his resignation. Here’s the Iowa House Democrats’ press release of August 1:

Des Moines, Iowa-Karl Schilling of Des Moines announced today that he will run in the Special Election for Iowa House District 33, which includes the SE side of Des Moines.

“I’ve dedicated my life to helping those around me, whether through my advocacy for victims’ and civil rights, labor issues or clean water.  I want to be voice for those and other issues that affect the citizens of southeast Des Moines,” said Schilling, a Democrat.

Schilling, now retired, spent over 25 years with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.  He graduated from Iowa State University with a B.S. in English.  Following two deployments to Vietnam, he completed both his M.A. in English at Iowa State and his MPA from Drake University. Schilling spent much of his career as an IUP member and steward.

“As a veteran, I know that support for our military families is vital.  I want to help our returning veterans with this transition. I’m ready to work hard and listen to the concerns of the people in this district.  I look forward to having conversations with folks,” added Schilling.

Schilling is a 20 year member and President of the Iowa Organization for Victim Assistance. He is also a member of the Easter Lake Restoration Board, the Polk County Democratic Central Committee and the 3rd Congressional District Democratic Central Committee.

Schilling and his wife, Margaret (Peg), a retired AFSCME member, have two children and three grandchildren.  They attend St. John’s Methodist Church and reside in the Easter Lake neighborhood.

Joe Henry announced his candidacy in this August 9 press release:

DES MOINES, Ia. – Joe Henry, a lifelong resident of Des Moines’ south side, has announced he will run in a special election for the Iowa House of Representatives District 33 seat.

Henry is a third-generation Latino in Iowa who has a long history of advocating for union workers, better schools in Des Moines and voter rights, among other issues.

“I grew up in Des Moines. I live here. I work here,” Henry said. “I want nothing more than to make sure the citizens of District 33 get their fair share.”

Henry’s top priorities in seeking the office include providing more money for public education; improving the maintenance of highways, bridges and other infrastructure; taking action at a state level on the federal health care act; and promoting the creation of good-paying jobs and saving current jobs for Iowans.

“We need more teachers and support staff,” he said. “That can only be achieved by making sure the Legislature provides more funding not less. Our kids are the future, and our district has not received adequate support.”

Henry also said he would work to find ways to provide affordable education for post-high school-bound students. “A four-year degree should not be achieved by going into debt,” he said.

Henry himself has a four-year degree. He is a graduate of Iowa State University, currently works as a Realtor and is state director for the League of United Latin American Citizens of Iowa.

In 2011, he co-founded LULAC Council 307 in Des Moines because he wanted Latinos in Iowa to become part of a national organization that could help them reclaim their spirit in fighting to address their rights in the areas of immigration, jobs, health care and education.

Henry was at the forefront in the recent fight against voter suppression in Iowa. He worked with the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa to file a lawsuit against Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, a Republican, in an attempt to stop Schultz from enacting laws that would suppress voters, many of whom were Latinos, from enacting their constitutional right to vote.

Henry provided support to the case by collecting affidavits from new citizens and documenting the harms caused by Schultz’s efforts. Henry’s work alongside others resulted in an injunction that protected the November 2012 General Election. Because of his efforts, the ACLU of Iowa presented Henry with its 2013 Louise Noun Award.

“What Secretary of State Schultz was attempting to do was intimidate a growing sector of our population in order to keep them from voting,” Henry said. “It was vital that we stop his efforts so Latinos and other Iowans felt confident in their ability to justifiably cast their ballot on Election Day.”

Henry also has been involved with several other efforts in the Latino community. He helped organize the first-ever Latino Legislative Day at the Iowa State Capitol in 2013, led a successful Latino voter registration effort in 2012, and oversaw the creation of the first-ever database of registered Latino voters in Iowa. The database identified almost 35,000 registered Latino voters by political party, residency and voting history. The information was used for Iowa LULAC’s voter outreach and registration campaign, which, along with the work of other Latino organizations, resulted in several thousand more Latinos in Iowa registering to vote in the November election.

“If elected, I will hit the ground running to fight for our district,” Henry said. “Our economy is growing, but we still have people unable to find work and kids who can’t afford a higher education. We can do better.”

Henry’s maternal grandparents came to Iowa from Mexico in 1917. His grandfather, Joseph Enriquez, worked at a cement plant on the south side of Des Moines and raised his family in Valley Junction.

Henry served as president of LULAC Council 306 in the 1980s, and worked on the campaign of Mary Campos, a longtime Des Moines area civil rights activist, for Des Moines City Council. He also fought for workers’ rights in the Teamsters Union for 23 years, was elected president of Teamsters Local Union #90, and worked for the President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Washington D.C. from 1992 to 1999. He was a Des Moines City Council candidate, running for the fourth ward seat, in 2006.

Henry also has managed several successful city council campaigns, including those for Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie, and he worked as a central committee delegate in 2000 to re-elect current Iowa State Sen. Jack Hatch.

In the past, Henry collaborated with the National Council of La Raza in fighting a bill in the Iowa Legislature known as “English only.”

Currently, Henry serves on the board of the Young Women’s Resource Center, is president of Save & Support Our Schools, and is a commissioner of the Des Moines Civil Service Commission. He recently was appointed to the grievance board of the Iowa Supreme Court, and he is part of the Des Moines South-Side Revitalization Partnership and the Southwest Ninth Street Merchants Committee.

Henry and his wife, Susan, live on the city’s southeast side. Henry has two sons: One is a graduate of Drake University and works in Des Moines; the youngest is serving in the U.S. Army and recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan.

I have not seen an official campaign announcement from Felix Gallagher, but several Democrats who live on the south side have indicated that he is seeking the nomination. A graduate of Drake University’s College of Pharmacy, Gallagher has worked in Wal-Mart’s pharmacy division and is now president of the Johnston-based company PharmServ Solutions. This biography appears on the website of the Drake University College of Pharmacy’s National Advisory Council. Excerpt:

Felix Gallagher has a progressive record of success as a practical scholar, athlete, and entrepreneur. Principal of PharmServ Staffing, Felix has a proven leadership record and has excelled in multiple areas as a consequence of his determination, persistence, highly developed work ethic, and commitment to excellence. His career legacy encompasses managing strong pharmacy growth for Wal-Mart and starting up a new successful human capital business specializing in interim and long-term pharmacist placements. […]

Throughout his tenures with Wal-Mart and PharmServ, Felix served as a community resource in terms of academics, athletics, and community and industry service despite intense professional commitments. He serves as a model entrepreneur for the Hispanic community and has frequently served in executive and liaison roles for the Alianza Hispanic Business Association. There have been very few years where he has not served as a youth coach for football. He was appointed to Drake University College of Pharmacy National Advisory Council and is a Board Member for the Zeta Kappa Lambda Educational Foundation. Felix was the former President, Zeta Kappa Lambda Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated. His professional memberships include Iowa Pharmacists Association, Johnston Chamber of Commerce, and Greater Des Moines Partnership. […]

Since 2002, his community service includes personally mentoring 24 high school youth from ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Felix was born in Brooklyn, New York. Married to Sara, a marketing leader with Des Moines’ West Bank. Their son Felix Jr. was born Sept. 24, 2000.

It sounds like all of the candidates have a lot to offer, and as I mentioned above, I hope they all will run in next year’s Democratic primary, no matter who wins the October 22 special election.

Yesterday Polk County Democrats Executive Director Tamyra Harrison explained to me how the nominee will be chosen at the special convention scheduled for September 4. The short version: only the Polk County Central Committee members who live in House district 33 have a vote. But tabulating the votes will be more complicated than it first appears.

House district 33 contains fifteen precincts. In theory, each precinct could have two representatives on the Polk County Democratic Central Committee (30 total for the district). But several of the precincts have not elected central committee members, and some others have only one representative on the committee. The upshot is that only eleven people from House district 33 have been serving on the central committee, and one of them recently moved out of state. That leaves ten people to decide the nominee for the special election.

Those ten people won’t each have an equal vote, because votes are weighted by the number of Democratic votes each precinct produced for Barack Obama in the 2012 general election. Harrison told me that the president received 8,772 votes from residents of House district 33, but many of those voters live in precincts not currently represented on the central committee.

Here’s the list of people who can vote at the September 4 nominating convention, with their weighted vote totals. If two people represent the same precinct, they split the votes in half.

Karl Schilling and his wife Peg are the two central committee members from Des Moines 71, which produced 1,012 votes for Obama in 2012. They will obviously cast those 1,012 votes for Schilling to become the Democratic nominee.

Joe Henry is the sole central committee member from Des Moines 73, which produced 760 votes for Obama.

Raymond Murray and Tyrone Hunt will each be able to cast half of the 909 votes that Des Moines 69 produced for Obama.

Leslie Way and Karen DeMello will each be able to cast half of the 880 votes that Des Moines 76 produced for Obama.

Maria Rubio will be able to cast all of the 613 votes on behalf of Des Moines 70; she would have had to split those votes with another central committee member, but he moved out of state.

Kenneth Cortum is the sole central committee member from Des Moines 49, which produced 364 votes for Obama.

Benjamin Nicks, Jr. is the sole central committee member from Des Moines 74, which produced 309 votes for Obama.

As things stand, 4,847 votes are up for grabs at the special nominating convention. The nominee will need to win at least half of those votes (2,424). If no one succeeds on the first ballot, the candidate with the least votes will drop out, and the central committee members will choose between the two remaining candidates.

But wait, there’s more!

Harrison explained that some Democrats are seeking to put more people from House district 33 on the Polk County Central Committee before the September 4 convention. Those people could be from “empty” precincts, or they could become the second central committee member from a precinct that has only one current representative.

A new central committee from an empty precinct would be able to cast as many votes that precinct produced for the president, pushing the total votes needed to secure the nomination higher than 2,424.

A new central committee member from a precinct that already has someone on the central committee would be able to split that precinct’s votes. So, if a supporter of Schilling or Gallagher managed to become a central committee member for Des Moines 73, then Joe Henry would be able to cast only 380 votes for himself rather than the whole 760 that his precinct produced for Obama.

At the Polk County Democrats’ next central committee meeting on August 22, any member may nominate additional people to represent underserved precincts in House district 33. But party rules say that nominees to the central committee can’t be elected and seated until the subsequent meeting, which is now scheduled for after the September 4 nominating convention.

So, to affect the outcome of that nominating convention, an extra central committee meeting would need to be scheduled between August 22 and September 4 to elect new members from House district 33. Harrison told me that 57 current central committee members would have to either vote for or petition for a special meeting to be scheduled. In a typical month, fewer than 57 people attend the Polk County Democrats Central Committee meetings. Those hoping to help choose among Schilling, Henry, or Gallagher need to find someone on the central committee to nominate them on August 22 and convince at least 57 central committee members to sign a petition demanding a special meeting before September 4.

Harrison made clear that the Polk County Democrats are not pushing for seating any additional people before the nominating convention. The thinking seems to be that if you want a say in situations like this, you should step up and volunteer for the unglamorous job of representing your precinct on the central committee.

Any of the three candidates could conceivably benefit from seating additional central committee members before September 4.

Schilling goes into the convention with 1,012 votes guaranteed, and he is obviously McCarthy’s preferred candidate. Depending on how many other central committee members support him, he might be able to clinch the nomination with an extra person or two representing precincts with no one on the central committee.

If Henry or Gallagher can’t piece together a majority (2,424 votes) from among the 10 people currently allowed to vote on September 4, they may need supporters from other precincts to stop Schilling from winning on the first ballot.

Any comments about the special election are welcome in this thread.

Here’s a closer view of House district 33:

Iowa House district 33 photo IowaHD33_zpsb5d63bbb.jpg

UPDATE: Press release of August 20:

Des Moines City Councilman Brian Meyer Announces Bid for Iowa House District 33

Brian Meyer announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination for the special election to elect a new State Representative for Iowa House District 33. A special nominating convention of eligible central committee members will be held on September 4th at 6:30 pm.  

“I have decided to enter this race in the hopes of unifying the party and continuing the good work of former Representative McCarthy.”  “My focus will be to strengthen Iowa’s middle class and working poor, stand strong for civil rights and fight everyday for a cleaner environment.”

In addition to formally announcing his candidacy, Meyer is also pleased to announce the support of the other two previously announced candidates in the race.

“Brian has a strong record of working for the residents of the Southeast side of Des Moines on the city council and he will continue that strong advocacy at the Statehouse,” Joe Henry stated this afternoon.

“Brian will be a strong advocate for the people of District 33 and will make clean water and environmental protection a top priority by supporting full funding of REAP and working towards creating a cleaner environment in Iowa.  He will be a strong advocate for working families and will protect workers’ rights.”  Karl Schilling said.  

Both Joe Henry and Karl Schilling (and his wife Peg) serve as eligible voters on the central committee for the special nominating convention.

Brian lives in Southeast Des Moines with his wife Ann and two children, Evelyn and Clara.  He is a former Assistant Iowa Attorney General and former Assistant Polk County Attorney.  Most recently Brian served as Leader McCarthy’s legislative Legal Counsel for the past six years.  Brian is currently in his seventh year serving the citizens of Southeast Des Moines as a member as the Des Moines City Council.  Prior to his service on the council, Brian served on the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission.  He is a 2002 graduate of Drake Law School and a former proud member of AFSCME local 1868.  

After the special nominating convention, the special general election to fill the vacancy will be held on October 22.

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  • 33

    I’m sure Schilling would be fine, but how about a little diversity? If I were king (not Steve) Henry would be my pick. Hard worker, energetic.  

    • that's how I lean as well

      but if I lived in the district I would want to learn more about all of the candidates before voting. Nothing against Schilling, but I am glad people stepped up to the plate so that there would be some kind of competitive election. I hope that next spring thousands of people will be able to choose, rather than just ten.

  • Oops never mind

    Brian Meyer of dm city council fame now running. Schilling and Henry dropping out. Your next representative for House 33, Brian Meyer !

    • I just saw that too

      Should have waited another day to write this post. Oh well.

      • Brian

        Civic Skinny sez new House Minority Leader Mark Smith gave BM the hook from the Leaders staff. Some people are not happy.  

    • What if?

      Can Chris Diebel run for the subsequent Ward 4 vacancy now instead of trying to take on Skip Moore?

      • Ward 4

        I don’t believe that Skip nor Chris live in Ward 4. But, should something be possible, wouldn’t it make more sense for Skip to run for this seat based on the jurisdiction? Similarly, that may be a very tight race with the “older union guy vs. the young guy.” I wonder if the unions could get Skip to run for Ward 4 which would mean a win for the unions/Skip as well as the “new guard” in Chris Diebel.

        • Then why

          isn’t Diebel running against Christine Hensley for crying out loud?!?

          • Hensley

            I don’t think she can be beat in Ward 3, do you? She’s rumored to be sitting on a pretty signifcant war chest plus her ward is happy with her. Those two together make her a difficult opponent. Is she currently running unopposed?

            I think the appeal for Diebel in an At Large bid is that he would not be accountable to just one ward which may potentially limit development and growth opportunities outside the parameters of that specific ward.

  • Not that it matters now

    but I thought convention weighting was based on presidential plus gubernatorial, not just presidential? Of course the last gubernatorial was under old precinct lines, maybe that’s it.

    • I don't know why

      but that’s a good hypothesis. I specifically asked Tamyra Harrison whether the weighting was based only on the 2012 presidential election.