The Iowa House Democratic caucus is poised to have more turnover than usual after the 2022 election, as the new legislative map created open seats in some solid blue areas, and several sitting lawmakers have confirmed they won't seek re-election.
In Des Moines, Megan Srinivas and Sean Bagniewski are the first Democrats to begin campaigning in two House districts where the winner of the June primary is virtually guaranteed to be elected next November.
MEGAN SRINIVAS RUNNING FOR SOUTH-SIDE SEAT
State Representative Bruce Hunter was first elected to the Iowa House in a 2003 special election and announced several months ago that he would not seek another term in 2022. The map lawmakers adopted in October put much of his south-side district in the new House district 30:
According to a map Josh Hughes created in Dave's Redistricting App, voters in this district favored Joe Biden over President Donald Trump by 59.5 percent to 38.3 percent, Theresa Greenfield over Senator Joni Ernst by 60.2 percent to 36.0 percent, and Fred Hubbell over Governor Kim Reynolds in 2018 by 63.5 percent to 34. 1 percent.
The only Democrat to declare in this district so far is Dr. Megan Srinivas, who launched her campaign on November 30. Bleeding Heartland readers may recognize her name, because in 2018 she ran a close race for the Iowa House seat in Fort Dodge, where she grew up and returned to work after training as a doctor. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, she has frequently been quoted in the media for her expertise as an infectious disease specialist. (Her Twitter handle is @YourlocalIDdoc.)
I didn't realize Srinivas had moved to Des Moines last year for a consultant position at Broadlawns Medical Center. In her campaign launch video, she says she chose to live on the south side because "it feels like home," and praised the area's work ethic, values, and cultural diversity.
From the November 30 news release announcing her candidacy:
“We’ve been well served by Representative Hunter,” says Srinivas. “Des Moines’s Southside deserves the best representation and somebody who will bring people together to better our community. We all want so many of the same things: healthcare that's affordable and accessible, a job that pays a good wage with decent benefits, a great Iowa education, and a safe community. These aren't partisan issues, they’re just common sense.”
Megan has always prioritized making Iowa a better place to live. She was appointed by Governor Vilsack in 2003 to serve as the first student representative on the Iowa State Board of Education. She also founded and led Presents of Hope for 10 years, a community effort that provided essential items and holiday presents to families in homeless and domestic abuse shelters. And during the fall of 2020, Megan chaired Iowa’s Biden-Harris COVID Response Council.
“The pandemic really opened people’s eyes to the connection between health and all of the day-to-day concerns that shape Iowans’ futures, like affordable housing, quality education, job security, and good wages. For years I’ve watched my patients face these systemic obstacles that I can’t fix by writing a prescription alone. That’s why I’m running for the Iowa legislature: to create a system in which my patients and their families don’t just survive, but are able to thrive.”
Dr. Srinivas is an infectious disease physician at Broadlawns Medical Center and works remotely for the University of North Carolina School for Medicine. She works with Iowa Primary Care Association (PCA) to improve access to Hepatitis C treatment throughout the state. She also serves on the Iowa Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission and sits on the board of the Iowa chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI Iowa).
If elected, Srinivas would be the only medical doctor serving in the legislature. (First-term Republican State Representative Steve Bradley is a dentist.) She would also be the third Asian American ever to serve in the Iowa House. The others are former Democratic lawmaker Swati Dandekar, first elected in 2002, and Republican State Representative Henry Stone, elected in 2020.
Lots of Democrats live on the south side of Des Moines, so I don't expect Srinivas to clear the field for the June 2022 primary. But I am not aware of anyone else campaigning here yet. Please let me know about other prospective contenders.
Greg Hauenstein, a former Democratic staffer who now works as a political and commercial photographer, has been seen as a possible legislative candidate after Hunter's retirement. He told Bleeding Heartland on December 4 that he's a "huge fan of Megan Srinivas."
She and my wife have known each other for years and we both can’t be more thrilled she’s running for this seat and she has my full throated support. I look forward to knocking my knuckles raw for her.
UPDATE: I asked Eddie Mauro, a former candidate for the legislature, U.S. House, and U.S. Senate, whether he might run in House district 30, or in Senate district 15 (if current State Senator Tony Bisignano does not seek re-election). Mauro responded on December 11,
I've lived on the south side of DSM most of my life. I taught school here and coached HS and Youth teams here. We built businesses here. My wife and I raised a family here and we have owned a home here for 30 years. I want every person to have the opportunities and support that I've had and I'm strongly considering my options for how I can best serve our community.
LATER UPDATE: State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad endorsed Srinivas on December 13.
SEAN BAGNIEWSKI RUNNING FOR NORTHWEST SEAT
The new Iowa House district 35 covers neighborhoods on the northwest side that are mostly part of State Representative Marti Anderson's current district. Her own home is located in neighboring House district 34, but she had announced plans to retire before the redistricting was finalized.
This district includes parts of the Beaverdale, Lower Beaver, Merle Hay, Waveland Park, and Waveland Woods neighborhoods. All are Democratic strongholds. According to Josh Hughes' map in Dave's Redistricting App, residents of the new House district 35 split two to one in favor Biden (68.6 percent of the 2020 presidential vote), Greenfield (67.4 percent of the 2020 vote for U.S. Senate), and Hubbell (69.7 percent of the 2018 vote for governor).
So far, the only declared candidate is Polk County Democrats chair Sean Bagniewski. From his official bio:
Sean Bagniewski’s life began in a trailer park, being raised by a single mother who worked day and night to take care of him. His mother’s dedication and his community’s public investments worked together to afford Sean the opportunities he needed to thrive and eventually become an attorney.
For Sean, change starts with everyday Iowans and the recognition that individual success isn’t always enough. Change comes when our communities thrive and bring out the best in people. But along the way, he witnessed how years of political gridlock and hyperpartisanship meant that kids who were just like him would soon be left without the opportunities he once had. Sean had already witnessed first-hand that meaningful progress was achievable if community leaders committed themselves to putting people over politics.
His time in law school, however, also taught him that politicians sometimes needed to be pushed in the right direction. So, Sean rolled up his sleeves and began volunteering for organizations that would actually advocate for his community’s needs. Years went by as the county’s top volunteer leader, a co-founder of a statewide organization, and a Dad.
Launching his campaign in mid-November, Bagniewski said he was running "to strengthen voting rights, to fight for jobs and good wages, and to help revitalize our neighborhoods." Alluding to the tradition of activism and high turnout in the Beaverdale area, Bagniewski added, "The people in our district are in a unique position to help Iowans far outside of our boundaries. Organizing to support strong communities is in the DNA of everyone here. We have a long history of leading the charge of progressive issues that impact all Iowans."
I anticipated a large Democratic field for this district, but I have not yet heard of anyone else planning to run. Bagniewski has rolled out a steady stream of endorsements on his campaign's Facebook page, including State Representatives Ako Abdul-Samad and Ruth Ann Gaines, former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge, Polk County Auditor Jamie Fitzgerald, Polk County Supervisor Angela Connolly, Des Moines City Council member Carl Voss, Des Moines school board member Kelli Soyer, Polk County Soil and Water Commissioner Katie Rock, and the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 33.
Final note: Three long-serving state House members from Des Moines have not clarified whether they will seek re-election next year. If Gaines, Abdul-Samad, or Jo Oldson retire from the new House districts 33, 34, or 36, I would expect competitive Democratic primaries there.