Democrats have a new candidate in Iowa House district 58, which will likely be targeted by both parties. Jessica Kean, who works for a non-profit organization in Maquoketa, will seek the nomination at a special convention next month. Previous Democratic candidate Peter Hird had been running for the seat since last October and was unopposed in the primary, but yesterday he announced plans to end his campaign for unspecified “personal reasons,” following “much deliberation.” The party’s new recruit Kean will be favored at the special convention, even if other Democrats enter the fray.
Among the most Democratic-leaning Iowa legislative seats currently held by a Republican, House district 58 is a must-win for Democrats to have any hope of regaining control of the lower chamber, where the party now holds 43 of the 100 seats. It became one of the top pickup opportunities when GOP State Representative Brian Moore decided not to seek re-election, joining more than half a dozen of his colleagues this cycle.
I assumed Moore would be a one-term wonder after his shocking, narrow victory in 2010. But his constituents re-elected him even as Barack Obama received 55.6 percent of the vote in House district 58 in 2012. Only residents of House district 91 in the Muscatine area gave a higher share of their votes to the president while electing a Republican to the Iowa House. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, House district 58 contains 7,038 active registered Democrats, 5,236 Republicans, and 8,567 no-party voters.
The GOP candidate in House district 58 is former state lawmaker Andy McKean. He easily won a three-way primary with more than 62 percent of the vote. He served fourteen years in the Iowa House and ten in the Senate before retiring in 2002 to run successfully for Jones County supervisor.
Given McKean’s political experience and long career as an attorney in the Anamosa area, I am surprised he hasn’t raised more money for his House campaign. He reported $8,351.00 in contributions by mid-May, mostly from individuals, but spent almost all of that cash before the June primary. He raised another $5,115.00 in the next reporting period, of which $3,000 came from a PAC representing general contractors. As of July 14, McKean had just $4,594.23 cash on hand. House Republican leaders will probably need to spend part of Speaker Linda Upmeyer’s huge war chest defending this seat.
I enclose below background on both candidates and a map of the district, which covers all of Jackson County, much of Jones County, and two rural Dubuque County townships. Donald Trump carried Jackson County and most of the Jones County precincts in the February 1 precinct caucuses, while Marco Rubio carried the Dubuque County precincts. On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton carried Jackson County; the Jones County precincts were a mixed bag, and the Dubuque precincts were a tie.
More voters in House district 58 live in Jackson County (Kean’s base) than in Jones County, where McKean has lived for decades. On the other hand, Kean is a first-time candidate, whereas McKean has been elected to the state legislature ten times.
Iowa House Democrats press release, July 26:
Jessica Kean to Run for Iowa House
Seeks Democratic Nomination in House District 58
Maquoketa, IA — Jessica Kean, a mother of two and child advocate, today announced she will seek the Democratic nomination for House District 58, which includes Jackson, Jones and Dubuque Counties. The current Democratic candidate announced earlier today that he would remove his name from the ballot for the General Election in November.
“I’m running for the Iowa House because it’s time for new leaders who will put politics aside and work together for all Iowans. As a mom of two young kids, I’ll work to make public schools the top priority of the Iowa Legislature again and improve the lives of hard-working families in eastern Iowa,” said Kean, who works for a nonprofit to help children with cancer and childhood cancer survivors. “I’m excited to meet the people of District 58 at their doorstep and earn their vote in November.”
A Quad Cities native, Jessica and her husband, Mike, moved to Jackson County to settle down and raise their family. Mike works at John Deere in Dubuque. They have two children, Josie (4) and Teddy (1). They attend Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Maquoketa. Kean’s parents still live in the Quad Cities area and Mike’s parents live in Maquoketa. Her mother and sister are both teachers and her stepfather is a union electrician.
“Building a vibrant community can’t happen without good-paying jobs and a strong ag economy,” Kean added. “We can grow our rural communities and small towns by expanding renewable energy, adding value to the crops of our farmers, and bringing more advanced manufacturing jobs to eastern Iowa.”
After graduating from American University, Kean started her nonprofit career at the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. She is on the Board of Directors of Sunshine Childcare Center in Maquoketa, where her children attend, and is also a freelance writer.
“Another family issue I’m passionate about is honoring the sacrifice of our veterans and active duty military. That means high-quality, accessible healthcare for every veteran who needs it as well as helping every veteran find a good job after service so they can support their own family,” said Kean, whose brother and brother-in-law are both Army Veterans.
Local leaders will hold a special nominating convention in early August to select the new Democratic nominee.
Statement released by Iowa House Democrats on July 26:
Pete Hird to Withdraw from Race for State Representative
Bernard, Iowa — Pete Hird, candidate for State Representative in District 58, announced today that he will withdraw from the race due to personal reasons. Local leaders will select a new democratic candidate through a special nominating convention next month. Below is the full statement from Pete Hird.
“After much deliberation, I have decided to end my campaign for state representative for personal reasons. I’m humbled by the support I’ve received on the campaign trail over the last few months. I look forward to continuing to help working families through union organizing to set standards like equal pay, livable wages and quality healthcare at workplaces across eastern Iowa.”
Residence: Anamosa, Iowa
Family: Wife, Connie; four children
Political Experience: Iowa House of Representatives, 1979-1993; Iowa Senate, 1993-2003; Jones County Supervisor, 2003-2011; 2012 appointed by Governor Terry Branstad to serve on Iowa Public Information Board
Profession: Retired, former attorney
Branstad recently re-appointed McKean to the Iowa Public Information Board. According to the governor’s spokesperson, McKean would probably step down from that role if elected to the state legislature.