First-term GOP State Representative Darrel Branhagen announced yesterday that he will retire this year rather than seek another term in Iowa House district 55.
He is the eighth of the 57 House Republicans to announce retirement plans since last summer. The others are Kraig Paulsen (House district 67), Linda Miller (House district 94), John Kooiker (House district 4), Ron Jorgensen (House district 6), Quentin Stanerson (House district 95), Brian Moore (House district 58), and Josh Byrnes (House district 51).
Kooiker's district is the most solidly Republican in the state. Based on current voter registration numbers, Republicans will be favored to hold House districts 6, 67, and 94. On the other hand, the seats being vacated by Branhagen, Byrnes, Moore, and Stanerson will be strong pickup opportunities for Democrats. Bleeding Heartland previously discussed the political balance and recent voting history of districts 51, 58, and 95.
House district 55 covers most of Winneshiek County (including Decorah), part of Fayette County (including West Union), and a small area in Clayton County (including Elkader). A map is after the jump. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State's office, the district contains 5,539 active registered Democrats, 6,568 Republicans, and 6,499 no-party voters.
President Barack Obama took 55.19 percent of the vote among House district 55 residents in the 2012 general election. Joni Ernst outpolled Bruce Braley here in the 2014 U.S. Senate race, but by 50.28 percent to 45.60 percent, substantially less than her statewide margin of victory.
House district 55 was open for the 2014 general election following the retirement of longtime Democratic State Representative Roger Thomas. Branhagen defeated Democrat Rick Edwards by just 27 votes, the closest Iowa legislative result of the cycle.
Two Democrats had already begun campaigning here before Branhagen made his retirement plans known. I enclose below a press release with background on Pat Ritter, an attorney from West Union who launched his campaign in December. Former Winneshiek County Supervisor Steve McCargar announced his candidacy last month. A press release noted McCargar "was a co-manager at Oneota Food Coop for 25 years, helped start Hometown Taxi in 1987 and is currently a pre-school teacher and farmers market manager in Decorah." I have not yet heard of a Republican candidate in House district 55, but Decorahnews.com reported yesterday that an "announcement is expected soon."
Iowa House Democrats press release, December 17, 2015:
For More Information, Contact:
Pat Ritter - (563) 277-7630
Pat Ritter Announces Run for State Representative
West Union, IA – Today, U.S. Marine Corps veteran and West Union attorney Pat Ritter announced he will run for State Representative in House District 55, which includes parts of Winneshiek, Fayette, and Clayton Counties.
"In the Marines, I learned how to work through disagreements to carry out a common mission," said Pat Ritter. “Our Representatives in Des Moines should work together to do what’s best for our state. That means investing in education, promoting the creation of good jobs and taking care of our seniors and veterans.”
Raised by a single dad--an industrial sandblaster and Vietnam veteran--in Evansdale, IA after losing his mother at age five, Ritter learned the importance of working hard and getting an education. After High School, Ritter joined the United States Marine Corps, serving for over four years and obtaining the rank of Sergeant. While in the military, he earned multiple early promotions and in 2001 was named ‘Marine of the Year’ for II MEF Headquarters Group, a 2,800-Marine unit.
"I am a parent and a graduate of our public schools, and I believe that strong K-12 schools are the key to creating opportunities for Iowa children," said Ritter. "I'll never
stop fighting to keep lawmakers in Des Moines from shortchanging our local schools and denying opportunities to our kids."
A graduate of Grinnell College and the University of Iowa College of Law, Ritter prosecuted federal crimes as an intern with the United States Attorney's Office in the
Southern District of Iowa while in law school. He now practices in multiple areas of law and is a regular speaker on elder law topics including managing dementia, planning for long-term care, forming guardianships and conservatorships, and determining capacity for aging citizens.
"I work daily with aging Iowans who have concerns about the next stages of their lives. I believe we have a fundamental duty to keep our promises to the generations that came before us and provide them with adequate housing and opportunities for a secure retirement,” said Ritter.
Ritter stresses the importance of boosting the agricultural economy and creating jobs in his district. “I was raised by a single dad who worked nights to support us, so I know how important full-time jobs are to families in our community. As State Representative, I’ll work together with farmers to support agriculture, and I'll focus on job creation through small businesses, advanced manufacturing, and renewable energy,” added Ritter. "I'll also work to protect our natural resources and preserve the unique character of our land."
Pat and his wife Chandra are raising their two young children, Natalie and Elias, in West Union, where Pat also serves as a director on the West Union Community Development Board.