Voters in Iowa’s bluest city will elect at least two new state lawmakers next year. State Senator Joe Bolkcom announced on November 4 that he will not seek another term in 2022. First elected in 1998, Bolkcom said in a message to constituents and supporters that it’s “time to rotate the crops” and “bring new ideas and new energy to solving problems facing working people and our communities.”
His decision creates an open seat in Iowa Senate district 45, covering Iowa City and University Heights. One of the House districts contained in Bolkcom’s district will also be open, since State Representative Christina Bohannan is running for Congress rather than for re-election.
The other half of Bolkcom’s district is represented by Mary Mascher, a Democrat first elected to the Iowa House in 1994. Asked whether she plans to run for the Senate, seek re-election, or retire in 2022, Mascher told Bleeding Heartland on November 4, “I am still weighing my options.” UPDATE: Mascher announced on November 8 that she won’t run for the House again.
I expect crowded Democratic primaries next June for every open legislative district in the Iowa City area. The primary is the deciding election here, as Republicans have no chance and rarely even field candidates in this part of Johnson County. If Mascher runs for Senate, she would be the front-runner in a primary but probably would not clear the field. Bohannan’s victory over long-serving State Representative Vicki Lensing in the 2020 primary showed that many Democrats in the area are willing to support new legislators.
WHERE THE OPEN SEATS ARE
The new Iowa Senate district 45 looks like this:
No other district in the upper chamber is so heavily Democratic. According to a map Josh Hughes created on Dave’s Redistricting App, Joe Biden received 79 percent of the vote in this district last year, while Donald Trump received just under 19 percent. Fred Hubbell received 79.6 percent of the vote here in the 2018 governor’s race, and Hillary Clinton received 72.5 percent in the 2016 general election.
UPDATE: Iowa City council member Janice Weiner was the first Democrat to announce she’s running for the Senate seat. She finished second to Zach Wahls in a 2018 primary to represent a nearby district that includes Coralville.
Here’s the new House district 90, currently represented by Bohannan:
Biden and Hubbell each received just under 79 percent of the vote here, according to Josh Hughes’ map on Dave’s Redistricting App.
Here’s the new House district 89, which will be open if Mascher decides to run for Senate or retire. UPDATE: She is retiring.
Biden received about 79 percent of the vote and Hubbell just over 80 percent here.
I would like to hear from Democrats who are seriously thinking about running in any of these districts. Andrew Dunn has declared in House district 90. UPDATE: Adam Zabner launched his campaign in House district 90 in early January.
Bleeding Heartland is unlikely to endorse in next year’s primaries but as always, will welcome posts by candidates or their supporters. Here are the site’s guidelines for guest authors advocating for Democrats in competitive primaries.
UPDATE: Elinor Levin announced her candidacy in House district 89 on November 9. Her website (levinforiowa.com) includes her campaign launch video. If elected, she would be the first Jewish person to serve in the Iowa legislature since Ralph Rosenberg, whose last year in office was 1994.
THIRD UPDATE: Tony Currin is also running in House district 89.
JOE BOLKCOM’S LEGACY
When Democrats controlled the Iowa Senate from 2007 through 2016, Bolkcom chaired the Ways and Means Committee, which handles tax-related bills. He’s championed many other policies and been one of the strongest environmentalists in the Democratic caucus, as well as a voice for better oversight of the executive branch.
In an email to supporters, Bolkcom wrote, “It’s been a privilege to work every day to make life better for everyday Iowans.”
I’m proud to have been part of the progressive Iowa Democratic majority from 2007 to 2010 and the one vote Iowa Senate Democratic majority from 2011 to 2016. For six years, we blocked today’s ferocious, ongoing Republican attacks on Iowa workers, reproductive rights, health care, environment, and public education.
That message listed some of the legislative accomplishments the outgoing senator is proud to have helped bring about:
- Lifting tens of thousands of working Iowa families out of poverty thanks to the largest expansion ever of Iowa’s Earned Income Tax Credit, our state’s most important anti-poverty policy.
- Preventing car title loan sharks from gaining a foothold in Iowa and preventing them from cheating hard-working Iowans.
- Extending overdue civil rights protections to LGBTQ Iowans, thanks to the leadership of my Democratic colleagues.
- Strengthening the voting rights of Iowans by expanding vote by mail and allowing voters to register to vote on Election Day.
- Saving Iowa lives, both young and old, by raising the price of a pack of cigarettes by a dollar and by ending smoking in workplaces like restaurants and bars.
- Bringing health care and mental health services to Iowa families by expanding Medicaid, creating the Iowa Health and Wellness Program, and establishing a regional mental health system.
- Preparing for Iowa’s climate challenges by authoring legislation establishing the Iowa Climate Change Advisory Council.
- Helping create new businesses and economic activity in all 99 counties by authoring Iowa’s solar tax credit incentives. This legislation has already generated more than $400 million in private investment, 1,000 permanent jobs and built thousands of new solar power systems on Iowa homes, farms and businesses.
- Protecting lives, jobs and money across the state of Iowa by working with legislators and University of Iowa officials to create the Iowa Flood Center after the floods of 2008.
- Helping lead efforts to create the Iowa medical cannabis program to ease the suffering of Iowans with debilitating medical conditions.
I’m grateful for Bolkcom’s commitment to progressive policies and how he speaks truth to power. His most recent point of personal privilege highlighted how “Kim Reynolds and legislative Republicans have failed to protect Iowans from a deadly virus.” He connected the dots between their mistaken approach to COVID-19 and the way GOP lawmakers worked for years to block limits on smoking in public places, even though tobacco was the leading cause of death for Iowans.
Joe Bolkcom’s successor will have big shoes to fill in 2023.
Official legislative photo of State Senator Joe Bolkcom