Top Republican target in Iowa House will be open seat

Democratic State Representative Bruce Bearinger will not seek re-election after all.

According to an April 28 news release from Iowa House Democrats, Bearinger “has been selected as the new Dean of Agriculture, Animal Science, and Business Technologies at Northeast Iowa Community College.” He will serve out his current term in the legislature but will withdraw his candidacy after the June primary.

House district 64 was already a top-tier target for Republicans, who recruited a strong candidate in Chad Ingels. When I previewed this race last month, I gave a slight edge to Bearinger, who has consistently outperformed the top of the Democratic ticket.

As a general rule, winning an open seat is easier than beating an incumbent. Furthermore, voters in this part of northeast Iowa have been trending toward Republicans. Although Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney in House district 64 by nearly 17 points in 2012, both Donald Trump and Governor Kim Reynolds did a little better in the district than their statewide margins of victory.

The latest official figures indicate that neither party has a strong voter registration advantage. The district contains 5,178 active registered Democrats, 4,540 Republicans, and 8,324 no-party voters. Among local Democrats who participated in the February 3 caucuses, the top presidential contenders were Pete Buttigieg, Joe Biden, and Amy Klobuchar (whom Bearinger had endorsed).

Democrats will be able to nominate another candidate for House district 64 through a special convention sometime before mid-August. I haven’t heard any names floated but will update this post as needed. This might become a toss-up race if Democrats recruit a strong replacement candidate. Otherwise the odds will favor a Republican pickup, which would greatly improve GOP prospects for retaining control of the House. They currently hold a 53-47 majority in the chamber.

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