Laura Hubka challenging Josh Byrnes in Iowa House district 51

Democrats have a candidate in what could become one of next year’s battleground Iowa House races. Depending on the outcome of a special election in House district 25, Democrats need a net gain of three or four seats to win control of the lower chamber. Laura Hubka announced her plans to run for House district 51 two weeks ago on the SiriusXM program “Make It Plain.” The Iowa House Democrats made the campaign official yesterday. Hubka went to high school in Decorah and returned to live in northeast Iowa nearly 20 years ago, after completing 10 years of service in the U.S. Navy. She has worked at several health centers in the area. She became involved in Democratic politics in 2007, volunteering for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. After Iowa’s new map of political boundaries was approved in 2011, Hubka helped form the “Tri County Democrats” collaboration among activists in Mitchell, Howard, and Worth Counties. She volunteered for State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm’s successful re-election bid against Senator Merlin “Build My Fence” Bartz in 2012.

After the jump I’ve posted background on Hubka and two-term Republican incumbent Josh Byrnes, along with a detailed map of House district 51. The district runs along the Minnesota border, including Worth, Mitchell, and Howard Counties, plus part of Winneshiek County. As of November 2013, House district 51 contained 5,794 registered Democrats, 6,463 Republicans, and 8,522 no-party voters.

Byrnes was comfortably re-elected in 2012 even as President Barack Obama won more than 55 percent of the vote in House district 51. So he would be favored to win a third term. I sought comment from Byrnes after hearing rumors that he might retire next year. Notably, he did not say he will definitely run again. Rather, he indicated that he will decide after the legislative session is over. He’ll need to make up his mind before then, because the filing deadline for major-party candidates is March 14, 2014.

Byrnes has occasionally looked like the odd man out in the Iowa House Republican caucus. He is on the record supporting same-sex marriage rights and an increase in the state gasoline tax. He was one of only two GOP legislators to support the Democratic position on expanding Medicaid. For those reasons, I would not be surprised to see a primary challenge against him from the right.

Regardless of whether Byrnes seeks re-election, Hubka is unlikely to face competition in the Democratic primary. According to Kurt Meyer, Byrnes’ Democratic opponent in 2010, the Tri-County Democrats are strongly behind Hubka. UPDATE: Hubka’s campaign is on Facebook here and has not yet launched a website.

LATE UPDATE: Added further information about Hubka below.

Iowa House district 51 photo IowaHD51_zps9ef51ca1.jpg

Iowa House Democrats press release, November 26:

Hubka Announces Bid for House District 51

Riceville, Iowa – Navy veteran and health care specialist Laura Hubka of Riceville announced today that she will run for state representative in District 51, which includes Howard, Mitchell, Worth, and part of Winneshiek Counties.

“As a veteran and health care professional for 30 years, I’m passionate about serving our great country and helping Iowans lead healthy lives,” said Hubka.  “It’s time for us to put aside the partisanship, do what’s best for everyday Iowans, and grow the middle class again.”

Hubka is a graduate of Decorah High School and then served in the US Navy for a decade.  She returned to Iowa to work at Winneshiek Medical Center and currently works at Mercy Medical Center-North Iowa performing ultrasounds at locations in Cresco and New Hampton.

“After a decade in the Navy and three decades listening to patients, I’m ready to serve in the Iowa House.  Over the next year, I will work hard and reach out to Iowans in every part of the district to hear their ideas and suggestions,” added Hubka, who cared for President Regan while serving in the Navy.   “It doesn’t matter if an idea comes from a Democrat or Republican, if it’s good for Iowa and our local communities, I will work to get the idea passed in the Iowa House.”

Hubka lives in Riceville with her husband, Kenny, who works for Precision of New Hampton. Her oldest son, Robert, served in the US Army in Iraq and now lives his wife in Hubbard, Iowa. Her daughter Katie attends Iowa State University and is studying education.  Brian is the youngest son and he is currently serving in the US Navy in Japan.

Hubka can be reached at  She is also on Twitter @laurahubka4iowa.

Biography of Byrnes from the Iowa House Republicans website:

Josh grew up in Riceville where he graduated from Riceville Community High School in 1992. He went on to graduate from Luther College, earned a Master’s Degree from Winona State University, and is currently completing his doctoral work at Iowa State University.

Josh was a high school teacher for eight and a half years and also served as an administrator at the community college level. Byrnes has taught or coached in the districts of Denison, Osage, Riceville, Mason City, St. Ansgar, and Clear Lake.

Josh is passionate about education, agriculture, and manufacturing and wants to see these areas continue to grow and be progressive. He believes these areas can grow through entrepreneurship and training.

Josh currently resides on an acreage in Mitchell County with his wife, Colleen, daughters, Alexandra and Scarlett, and son, Nolan. Colleen is a family nurse practitioner at the Mitchell County Regional Hospital. The family enjoys their acreage where they have a small cow calf herd, raise gourds and play ball on their diamond.

UPDATE: Hubka posted the following Q & A on her campaign’s Facebook page on December 13.

1) What made you decide to run for the State Assembly?


For several years, I watched the divide in this country and state get wider and wider. I was not a particularly political person, but I think most people can say that they have noticed a pretty stark comparison to the politics of even 10 years ago to today. I became more involved and watched as many were elected to office and often times failed to listen to the constituents that they serve.

I will be someone who listens and carries ideas to Des Moines that are of the utmost concern to the citizens of the counties I will represent. I will work together with all members of the Iowa House, regardless of party, and always do what is best for the people of my district.

2) What qualifications do you think you have for the job?


I was raised in a middle class family and have spent all of my adult life in the medical field. For the last 20 years, I’ve worked in northern Iowa and listened to countless stories from Iowans about their lives and their future. I knew that if these people had someone that was just like them in office, we could work together and get things done to make their lives a bit better.

I’m a military mom and 10 year veteran of the US Navy myself. I have great pride in our country and know that America is still the best country in the world. I remain very connected to veterans issues and serving in the Legislature is another way I can help make sure we are doing all we can for our veterans and military families.

As a mother, I’ve raised my children through graduation in the NE Iowa school system and I know we need to have strong schools for all of our children. I’m also the wife of an over the road truck driver and I see how the issues raised locally with infrastructure and trucking laws effect not only the drivers and the companies they drive for but also their families.

3) What issues would you work on if elected?


I want to help people struggling with health care issues get the support and care they deserve in their own community. Having a strong and healthy Iowa is one of the big challenges we need to face head on.

Being a veteran and having one veteran son and another still serving, I am very concerned with veterans issues. I want our veterans to find jobs, health care, friendly faces and security for them and their families. I think that we all owe them that for their service.

I want our schools to be at the top of the nation again. I want our young children to be prepared for kindergarten and our youth to be ready for whatever career path they choose. Whether it’s a university, community college or technical training, education after high school has to be affordable and accessible to all of our graduates so they can land a good-paying job and support their own family.

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  • Good write up

    This could be a contest where specific ideas are exchanged, not just memorization of a party platform.  This could be fascinating.  

  • Winnable but

    This could be a pickup for Dems were it not for the ACA rollout disaster. And jb will not run again, Criswell predicts.  Good write up

    • by next fall

      The ACA rollout disaster will be old news (assuming the exchanges are working). If they’re not working, HD-51 will be the least of our problems.