Republican candidate Jon Jacobsen, an attorney and former weekly radio host, won yesterday's special election to represent Iowa House district 22 with 1,069 votes, about 44 percent, according to final unofficial results. Carol Forristall, who filed as an independent candidate after losing at the GOP special nominating convention, placed second with 803 votes (33 percent).
Almost all of the 465 write-in votes (19 percent) were presumably for the Democratic candidate Ray Stevens, who failed to submit his nominating papers on time. The Pottawattamie County Auditor's Office will confirm the write-in results today, Mike Brownlee reported for the Omaha World-Herald. Libertarian Bryan Jack Holder received 98 votes (4 percent) in the special election.
A victory for Jacobsen was expected in one of the GOP's safest Iowa House seats, where more than twice as many voters are Republicans as Democrats. Nevertheless, the failure to ensure that Stevens qualified for the ballot was a disappointing unforced error, especially with Forristall and Jacobsen destined to split the votes of many local Republicans.
Stevens insisted on taking full responsibility for the mistake, but more experienced Democratic activists could have prevented this outcome.
Pat Rynard speculated on Twitter last night, "Had Democrats given up on their obviously hopeless write-in cause, they could've elected an independent woman to the Iowa House." I question whether hundreds of voters who wrote-in Stevens would have bothered to cast a special election ballot for Carol Forristall. Moreover, it seems unlikely that the widow of longtime GOP State Representative Greg Forristall (who died in May) would have remained an independent in the state legislature. Surely she would have caucused with Republicans in order to receive committee assignments.
The August 8 special election in Iowa House district 82, where Democratic State Representative Curt Hanson recently passed away, will be a better test of both parties' ability to identify and mobilize supporters. That seat covering Davis and Van Buren counties and most of Jefferson County (including Fairfield) is much more politically balanced, with 6,252 active registered Democrats, 6,627 Republicans, and 5,707 no-party voters.
UPDATE: Rynard fleshed out his case at Iowa Starting Line.
Obviously, had she won, she would have joined the Republican caucus in the House and voted with them on most issues. But would she have been a total right-winger like this Jacobsen – a longtime Republican activist and former talk radio host – is rumored to be?
I asked a few of my Republican friends who knew Carol and they saw her as someone who could actually work with the other side of the aisle, and wasn’t the kind of partisan warrior that some of the newer Republican House members are. She’s a retired teacher and as Bleeding Heartland wrote, Greg Forristall’s refusal to go along with Republicans’ ploy to mess with school start dates likely cost him his chairmanship of the Education Committee. Democrats don’t remember Representative Forristall kindly from this past session when he ran the collective bargaining bill, but he had his moments where he acted more like an actual statesman and not a far-right ideologue.
Those differences – even minor personality ones – matter these days when Republicans hold as large of legislative majorities as they do. And really, who would you trust more: a female retired teacher who worked in the Legislature for years with her husband who occasionally bucked his party, or a talk radio host endorsed by Rick Santorum that was nominated by a bunch of Republican activists?
I'm skeptical that Carol Forristall would have been less easily controlled by House GOP leaders than Jacobsen, who will be a newcomer at the statehouse. We'll never know. The concept of Democrats voting tactically for a less-bad Republican in a hopeless race is worth considering, though.
SECOND UPDATE: Mike Petersen and O.Kay Henderson reported for Radio Iowa on June 28,
Jacobsen credits his campaign volunteers for carrying out a “great ground game.”
“Tip O’Neill always said: ‘All politics is local,’ and it’s still eyeball-to-eyeball, handshake-to-handshake. It’s still door-to-door,” Jacobsen said. “At least that’s the way it is in southwest Iowa here in (House) District 22. You can’t do it on TV. You can’t do it on radio. You’ve got to do it door-to-door.”
Jacobsen is vice president at Security National Bank in Council Bluffs. For the past three years, Jacobsen hosted a Saturday morning program on KMA Radio in Shenandoah called “You Ain’t Heard Nothing.” It’s the same station where Jim Ross Lightfoot worked as a farm broadcaster before winning a seat in the U.S. House.
Jacobsen, who will be serving in the Iowa House, has a list of issues he hopes to tackle.
“Obviously tax reform is going to be a huge issue,” Jacobsen says. “The issue with budget revenues not being where we thought they would be. That’s going to be an issue. A big thing for me is addressing the mental health — I’ll call it a crisis here in southwest Iowa. We’ve lost mental health beds. We just simply can’t have mentally ill people on the streets or in our jails.”