Democrat Charlie Hodges ends Iowa Senate district 20 campaign

One of two Democrats who had been campaigning in a top-targeted Iowa Senate district has left the race.

Charlie Hodges posted on Facebook on January 23 that he was ending his campaign in Senate district 20 because “the pathway to victory is too narrow at this point to justify continuing.” He said he is “fully supporting Rhonda Martin’s campaign to unseat Senator Brad Zaun” and encouraged those who backed him to do the same.

Martin was the first Democrat to declare in this district last May. The Johnston City Council member raised $45,076 during 2019, according to a campaign finance disclosure filed this week. All of the contributions came from individuals. Martin’s campaign had $39,228.58 cash on hand at the end of December. Hodges had raised $10,010.53 since entering the race in October, all from individuals (mostly small donors).

The Republican incumbent Zaun reported raising $24,732 in 2019, of which $12,500 came from political action committees and the rest from individual contributors. Zaun’s campaign spent $8,129.75 during 2019 and entered the election year with $17,574.67 cash on hand.

Both political parties will likely spend six figures in Senate district 20, which should be among the most competitive legislative races for reasons Bleeding Heartland discussed in detail here. The district covers suburbs northwest of Des Moines in Polk County; scroll to the end of this post to see a detailed map.

Only four of the 50 Iowa Senate districts delivered a higher share of the vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016 than for Barack Obama in 2012, and Senate district 20 was one of them. Residents of this area slightly favored Fred Hubbell in the 2018 governor’s race as well.

Another sign that this suburban area has moved from red to purple: the latest official figures indicate that registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in Senate district 20 by 1,530, with 14,801 active registered Democrats, 16,331 Republicans, and 16,227 no-party voters. Going into the 2016 general election (the last time Zaun was on the ballot), the district contained about 4,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats.

Zaun was a relatively early endorser of Donald Trump–after his first choice Scott Walker had quit the presidential race–and was in fact the only sitting Iowa lawmaker to back Trump before the 2016 caucuses. I expect the Trump campaign will want Republicans to invest heavily in GOTV this fall to save Zaun’s seat.

January 23 Facebook post from Charlie Hodges:

After careful consideration and consulting with my family and advisors, I decided to end my campaign for the Iowa State Senate in District 20. I knew this would be a challenging primary going in, but it is becoming more apparent that the pathway to victory is too narrow at this point to justify continuing.

I have no regrets entering the campaign, and I feel very optimistic about the future. I will continue to advocate for mental health, unions, gun control, marijuana legalization, and LBGTQ+ issues. I am proud to have brought additional attention to these issues in my campaign, and I encourage other Democratic candidates to take on these issues. We need to keep them in the narrative, so we can adopt related policies in the future. I firmly believe the one way we make no progress on challenging issues is not addressing them on the campaign trail.

Another factor in my decision is how to best utilize my time during the most important election cycle during my lifetime. I will be focusing my efforts to help other Democratic candidates’ campaigns and will get more directly involved with advocacy groups for the issues mentioned above. I am not going gently into that good night – merely shifting focus.

I am fully supporting Rhonda Martin’s campaign to unseat Senator Brad Zaun going forward. I encourage all my supporters, in-district or not, to support Rhonda and help her defeat Senator Zaun. This is a critical race, and I believe Rhonda can defeat him with all our support.

I want to thank everyone that has been so supportive of my candidacy, particularly my wife Denise, our kids, and the rest of my family – including my Beto O’Rourke supporter family. It’s no small undertaking, and the support means the world to me. It also proves that, with the proper support system in place, there are NO limits to what someone suffering from depression or other mental illnesses can accomplish. I am most proud to be an advocate for ending the stigma of mental illness – I hope my candidacy and future endeavors will help show that anything is possible with support and proper treatment.

Onward to a Blue Wave in 2020,
Charlie Hodges

Senate district 20 covers the northwest corner of Polk County, including most of Urbandale, Johnston, Grimes, and Jefferson township.

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