# 2011 Elections

Iowa Senate district 18: Preliminary post-election analysis

(A revealing look at absentee numbers and election-day results. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Without a doubt, the superlative early voting effort by Democrats and allied groups is largely responsible for Democrat Liz Mathis’ landslide victory over Republican Cindy Golding. Although the results are still unofficial and precinct-level demographics are not yet available, sufficient detail exists to draw some preliminary conclusions from the early reporting.

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Iowa Senate district 18 and local election results thread: Liz Mathis wins

Any comments on today’s election results are welcome in this thread. Polls closed at 9 pm in Iowa, but returns from the special election in Senate district 18 are coming in slowly. I will update this thread later as the outcome becomes clear. With six out of 40 precincts reporting, Democrat Liz Mathis leads Republican Cindy Golding by 5859 votes to 2474. UPDATE: Looks like a big win for Mathis. With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Mathis leads by 10,651 votes (58 percent) to 7,613 votes (41 percent).

SECOND UPDATE: The Linn County Auditor’s office posted unofficial results here (pdf). With all 40 precincts reporting, Mathis received 13,184 votes (55.8 percent), Golding received 10,283 votes (43.5 percent), and Constitution Party candidate Jon Tack received 151 votes (0.64 percent).

Democrats have retained control of the Iowa Senate with a 26-24 majority for the 2012 legislative session. It may even be a “stronger” majority if Mathis turns out to be less conservative than her predecessor, Swati Dandekar. Iowa Senate Republicans won’t be in a good mood when they elect a new minority leader on Thursday.

Nationally, Democrats have had good election results in Ohio (repealing a law that restricted collective bargaining rights) and Kentucky (holding the governor’s chair). It’s not yet clear whether Democrats will retain a Virginia Senate majority. I was surprised to see that Mississippi voters defeated a “personhood” ballot initiative stating that life begins at conception.

What races are you watching tonight? The incumbents on the Des Moines City Council easily won re-election. My two preferred candidates lost the Windsor Heights City Council election. Other Polk County results are here.

THIRD UPDATE: Democrats and allies are celebrating the Mathis victory with statements I’ve posted after the jump. The Iowa Democratic Party had lots of outside help with early GOTV from labor unions such as the Iowa State Education Association, the LGBT advocacy group One Iowa, the Planned Parenthood Voters of Iowa PAC, and the national 527 group Progressive Kick.

FOURTH UPDATE: An amazing result from Arizona tonight: voters recalled State Senate President Russell Pearce, author of the notorious “show me your papers” immigration law (which is being litigated in federal court). Apparently no state senator has ever been recalled in Arizona before. Pearce had been a leading opponent of the state’s “clean elections” public financing system.

FINAL UPDATE: The official canvass showed 13,324 votes for Mathis (56.0 percent), 10,322 votes for Golding (43.4 percent), 151 votes for Tack, and nine write-in votes.

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Iowa Senate district 18 election day news and discussion thread (updated)

Today’s forecast calls for rain and cold temperatures in Linn County as Iowa Senate district 18 voters determine whether the Senate will remain Democratic-controlled for the 2012 session or deadlocked at 25-25. The weather doesn’t seem bad enough to be a significant factor, but if it does keep some voters home, that’s probably good news for Democrat Liz Mathis. She continues to lead Republican Cindy Golding in early voting.

The latest absentee ballot numbers and other news clips from the special election campaign are after the jump.

UPDATE: New absentee numbers for Senate district 18 are below.

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Updated Iowa Senate district 18 absentee ballot numbers

Democrat Liz Mathis continues to lead in both absentee ballots requested and returned for the November 8 special election in Iowa Senate district 18. After the jump I’ve posted details as of 5 pm on November 4.

If you haven’t read it already, Bleeding Heartland user albert’s precinct-level analysis of the early voting numbers is well worth your time.

Note: Senate district 18 residents can vote in person on Saturday from 8 am to 5 pm at the Linn County Auditor’s office at Westdale Mall.

UPDATE: Absentee ballot numbers for Senate district 18 residents only are now after the jump.

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McKinley resigning as Iowa Senate Republican leader, won't run in 2012

Iowa Senate Minority Leader Paul McKinley announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2012 and will step down as leader of his party’s caucus when Senate Republicans meet in Des Moines on November 10. After the jump I’ve posted background on the drive to oust McKinley and thoughts about which Senate Republican will take his place next week.

McKinley’s retirement leaves Republicans without an obvious candidate in the new Senate district 14, which should be competitive in 2012. A map of this swing district is also below.

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Iowa Senate district 18: Early voting trends

(Fascinating precinct-level analysis. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

The early voting numbers appear quite promising for Democratic candidate Liz Mathis. As of 2 November, the Democrats have exceeded their 2010 general election return total, while the Republican ballot requests (thus far) fall short of 2010 early voting, with a substantially larger lag in returns. 

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Liz Mathis still has early vote edge in Iowa Senate district 18 (updated)

UPDATE: More recent absentee ballot numbers are here, and a precinct-level analysis of the early voting is here.

Absentee ballot requests and returns continue to favor Democrat Liz Mathis over Cindy Golding, her Republican opponent in the Iowa Senate district 18 special election.

The latest numbers from the Linn County Auditor’s Elections office are after the jump, along with recent comments about marriage equality by the Senate district 18 candidates.

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Competitive GOP primary coming in Iowa Senate district 48

Two men from Delaware County, Dan Zumbach and Brian Cook, have declared their intention to seek the Republican nomination in the new Iowa Senate district 48. Their plans indicate that a competitive GOP primary will determine Democrat Nate Willems’ opponent whether or not Cindy Golding of Linn County follows through on her plans to run in Senate district 48 next year as well. Golding is the GOP nominee for the November 8 special election in Iowa Senate district 18.

A district map and background on Zumbach and Cook are after the jump.

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Iowa Senate district 18: Early vote lead for Liz Mathis

UPDATE: More recent absentee ballot numbers are here, and a precinct-level analysis of the early voting is here.

Two weeks before the special election in Iowa Senate district 18, the number of absentee ballots requested and returned favored Democratic candidate Liz Mathis over Republican Cindy Golding by a two to one margin. Details are after the jump, along with other recent news about the race.

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National Organization for Marriage all in for Cindy Golding

The National Organization for Marriage has started spending money supporting Republican candidate Cindy Golding in the Iowa Senate district 18 special election. After the jump I’ve posted the first direct-mail piece from the group, which puts a questionable spin on Golding’s comments about marriage.

For now, NOM has pledged to support Golding “with a series of mailers and other activities” before November 8. Bob Vander Plaats’ FAMiLY Leader organization will also be involved with the independent expenditures. NOM spent heavily on the 2009 Iowa House district 90 special election, paying for television and radio commercials as well as direct mail. Those efforts didn’t stop Democrat Curt Hanson from winning by a narrow margin.

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Iowa Senate district 18 Democrats formally nominate Mathis (updated)

Democratic delegates in Iowa Senate district 18 nominated former television news anchor Liz Mathis last night for the November 8 special election. No other candidate sought the nomination. Republicans picked businesswoman and Linn County GOP co-chair Cindy Golding in a three-way nominating contest last week.

Both Mathis and Golding indicated yesterday that they will focus on jobs and the economy rather than social issues during the short campaign.

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Republicans nominate Cindy Golding for Iowa Senate district 18

Linn County Republican Party co-chair Cindy Golding won the GOP nomination for the November 8 special election in Iowa Senate district 18 tonight. To my surprise, Golding won enough votes on the first ballot against Mary Rathje and Matt Dummermuth.

UPDATE: Republicans will need a new candidate for the Cedar Rapids suburban swing district in 2012, even if Golding wins this year’s special election. Details are at the end of this post.

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Swati Dandekar resigning, forcing Iowa Senate district 18 special election

Democratic State Senator Swati Dandekar is stepping down from the legislature in order to accept an appointment to the Iowa Utilities Board, the Des Moines Register reported today. Her resignation forces a special election this fall in Iowa Senate district 18, which covers suburban and rural areas in Linn County.

Democrats currently hold a 26-24 Iowa Senate majority, so a Republican victory in the special election would deadlock the upper chamber for the 2012 legislative session. Follow me after the jump for a district map and first take on the race to replace Dandekar.

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Cedar Rapids metro votes down sales tax for flood prevention

Despite a well-funded campaign to extend the 1 percent local option sales tax for another 20 years, voters in the Cedar Rapids metro area (Cedar Rapids, Marion, Hiawatha, Robins and Fairfax, vote breakdown here) rejected the May 3 ballot measure by less than a 1 percent margin.

The defeat will be a blow to Mayor Ron Corbett, the City Council and a long list of the city’s largest and best-known employers. Those employers contributed to a fund-raising effort that raised nearly $500,000 to get the message out to the community that the city needed to help fund its own flood-protection system.

Corbett was hoping to head to Des Moines on Wednesday to tell lawmakers face-to-face that Cedar Rapidians had agreed to its part in flood-protection funding.

The “yes” campaign on the local option sales tax raised more than 100 times as much money as its opponents. The “no” campaign was a grassroots effort, lacking the funds for radio or television commercials.

Half of the funds raised over 20 years via the 1 percent sales tax were to be used for a flood prevention system protecting both sides of the river in Cedar Rapids. Corbett had argued that extending the sales tax would improve prospects for the city to receive state and federal funds for the project, estimated to cost approximately $375 million.

Legislation pending in the Iowa House and Senate would allow Cedar Rapids to use $200 million in state sales tax revenues for flood prevention over the next 20 years. The bill cleared the Senate Appropriations Committee last week, and a House Appropriations subcommittee advanced a companion bill on May 3. I doubt the Iowa House and Senate will pass this legislation now that Cedar Rapids area voters have rejected the local option sales tax–unless Cedar Rapids officials have a “plan B” up their sleeves.

Peter Fisher of the Iowa Policy Project and Iowa Fiscal Partnership has argued that creating a “state sales-tax-increment financing district” to fund flood prevention is a “gimmick.” In Fisher’s view, this method conceals real state spending (see also here). On the other hand, Cedar Rapids Gazette columnist Todd Dorman notes that hundreds of small businesses in neighborhoods near downtown will be hurt if the flood prevention plan fails to materialize.

On a related note, the future of the $75 million Cedar Rapids Convention Complex project is uncertain. City officials and Governor Terry Branstad’s administration have not resolved differences over a project labor agreement signed a month before Branstad issued an executive order banning such labor agreements on state-funded projects. On May 3, the Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council and the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Building Trades Council filed a federal lawsuit seeking to force Branstad to honor project labor agreements for construction projects in Coralville and Marshalltown.

The trades councils’ lawsuit said that the governor and the state have breached their contract with the labor councils by eliminating project labor agreements is place before the governor took office. The lawsuit also states that the governor’s action violates the Iowa Constitution regarding separation of powers, Iowa’s Home Rule law and federal law.

The outcome of that lawsuit could determine whether the Branstad administration is able to withhold $15 million in state I-JOBS funds for the Cedar Rapids Convention Complex project. The Iowa Finance Authority threatened to do so in February, and the governor rejected compromises Corbett proposed to honor the project labor agreement as well as the spirit of Branstad’s executive order.

UPDATE: More reaction to yesterday’s vote is after the jump.

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Republican Whitver wins Iowa Senate district 35 special

Republican Jack Whitver won today’s special election to represent Iowa Senate district 35, covering most of northern Polk County. With two-thirds of the precincts reporting, unofficial results show Whitver with more than 60 percent of the votes against Democrat John Calhoun. UPDATE: With 31 of 32 precincts reporting, Whitver had 4,771 votes (63.5 percent) to 2,739 (36.4 percent) for Calhoun. The result isn’t surprising given the GOP advantage in voter registration in this fast-growing district. Republican Larry Noble won a hard-fought race in Senate district 35 in 2006 (a Democratic wave year) and was unopposed for re-election in 2010. He resigned from the Senate after Governor Terry Branstad chose him to lead the Department of Public Safety.

A former Iowa State University football player, Whitver coaches for the Iowa Barnstormers arena football team, attends Drake University law school and owns a sports training business. He has promised to serve only two terms in the Senate.

Whitver’s victory means that barring any more special elections, Democrats will hold a 26-24 majority in the Iowa Senate during the 2011 and 2012 legislative sessions.

Speaking of the upper chamber, I learned today that only one attorney is currently serving the Iowa Senate. That’s the lowest number of lawyers the body has ever had, according to Iowa Lawyer magazine, a publication of the state bar association. Click here or look after the jump for the name of that lone attorney senator. Of the 100 representatives now serving in the Iowa House, 15 are attorneys.

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Republican Joni Ernst wins Senate district 48 special election

Montgomery County will need to find a new auditor, because Joni Ernst won today’s special election in Iowa Senate district 48. With all seven counties reporting, Ernst led Democrat Ruth Smith by 4,978 votes to 2,400 (67 percent to 33 percent), according to unofficial results posted on the Secretary of State’s website.

Kim Reynolds was elected to this seat in 2008 but resigned from the Senate after being elected lieutenant governor. The district comprises the south and southwest Iowa counties of Montgomery, Adams, Union, Clarke, Taylor, Ringgold, and Decatur.

Ernst’s victory gives the Republicans 23 seats in the upper chamber of the Iowa legislature. Democrats hold a slim majority with 26 seats. Senate district 35 will be filled in a January 18 special election between Republican Jack Whitver and Democrat John Calhoun.

Democrats nominate John Calhoun for Senate district 35 special

Delegates in Iowa Senate District 35, covering most of the northern half of Polk County, chose John Calhoun as their nominee for the January 18 special election. Calhoun lives in Polk City and is director of the Polk City Community Foundation and Polk City Development Corporation. No other candidates sought the Democratic nomination for this Republican-leaning district, so Calhoun was unanimously elected on the first ballot.

Republicans picked Jack Whitver out of a crowded field seeking the Senate district 35 nomination last week. Larry Noble vacated the seat when he agreed to serve as director of the Department of Public Safety in the Branstad administration.

The special election in Iowa Senate district 48 takes place today. Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Ruth Smith are running to replace Kim Reynolds, who resigned from the Senate after being elected lieutenant governor.

UPDATE: A press release containing more background information on Calhoun is after the jump.

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Whitver becomes GOP nominee for Senate district 35 special

Electors in Iowa Senate district 35 chose Jack Whitver on December 30 to run in the January 18 special election. Senate district 35 contains most of the northern half of Polk County. Whitver is a former Iowa State University football player who coaches for the Iowa Barnstormers arena football team, attends Drake University law school and owns a sports training business with locations in Ankeny, Urbandale, and Waukee. (Ankeny is the largest city in Senate district 35; Urbandale and Waukee lie outside the district.) Democrats will choose a candidate for this special election on January 3.

Six Republicans sought the nomination in this GOP-leaning district. The best-known were Kevin Koester, recently elected to a second term in Iowa House district 70, and Jim Gocke, a law partner of former State Senator Jeff Lamberti. Art Smith covered the nominating speeches and results from all five ballots at The Conservative Reader Iowa blog. The bottom candidate dropped out after each round of balloting, and Whitver finally received over 50 percent on the fifth round. Gocke led Whitver in the first and third ballots, but fell behind as more candidates were eliminated. Several GOP State Central Committee members who don’t live in Senate district 35 had backed Matt DeVries, an activist with Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty. DeVries was eliminated after the fourth ballot.

I was surprised to read in Craig Robinson’s post that only 34 of the 43 possible electors showed up to choose the Republican candidate for this special election. I know lots of people travel during the holiday season, but if you’re interested enough in politics to be a district elector, why would you miss a rare opportunity to pick your next state senator?

Robinson put Whitver’s nominating speech up on YouTube. It hits a lot of typical Republican talking points. For instance, according to Whitver, Iowa’s budget isn’t really balanced, because Democrats used one-time federal stimulus money to support the state budget. (Republicans will never understand that it was wise for states to use federal fiscal aid to get through the recession without devastating spending cuts, which would have been a further drag on the economy.) Whitver mentioned his 2006 candidacy against Ako Abdul-Samad in the overwhelmingly Democratic Iowa House district 66. From my perspective, the most interesting part of the speech began around the 2:50 mark:

I believe in term limits. If nominated tonight, I pledge right here, right now that I will serve no more than two terms in the Iowa Senate. I think that career politicians are one of the biggest problems that we have, and I think that getting rid of them are the single most effective way to eliminate the corruption, fix our political system and return our country to greatness.

Strange to rail against corrupt career politicians when your party’s top-ticket candidates last month were Chuck Grassley and Terry Branstad. Grassley has spent 52 years in politics, including 30 in the U.S. Senate, and Branstad just sought and won a fifth four-year term as governor.

The Ankeny area is likely to tilt Republican for some time, and Whitver’s a young guy. If he wins the race to succeed Larry Noble, as he will be favored to do, he may find it tempting not to step down after two terms in the Iowa Senate.

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Previewing the Iowa Senate district 35 special election (updated)

Last week Larry Noble resigned from the Iowa Senate, effective December 17, because Governor-elect Terry Branstad selected him to be commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety in the next administration. After the jump I’ve posted Noble’s official biography from his campaign website. He is well qualified to lead the Department of Public Safety and will have no trouble winning confirmation from his former Iowa Senate colleagues.

Noble’s resignation leaves Republicans with 22 seats in the Iowa Senate. Democrats are assured of a slim majority in the chamber with 26 seats. A January 4 special election in Senate district 48 will determine the successor to Kim Reynolds, who resigned to become lieutenant governor. Sometime this week, Governor Chet Culver will set a date for the special election to replace Noble. The election will take place within 45 days of Culver’s announcement, probably in late January.

Senate district 35 covers most of the northern half of Polk County (map). It includes the Des Moines suburbs of Ankeny and Johnston, as well as Grimes, Polk City, Alleman, Elkhart and rural areas north of I-80. The area has experienced rapid population growth in the past decade and leans strongly Republican. The seat was last vacant in 2006, when Jeff Lamberti stepped down to run for Congress. Iowa Democrats recruited Ankeny Mayor Merle Johnson and invested heavily in the race, but Noble won by 52 percent to 48 percent in a Democratic wave year. Democrats did not nominate a candidate against Noble when he came up for re-election in 2010. As of December 1, Senate district 35 had 23,450 registered Republicans, 18,065 registered Democrats and 19,017 no-party voters.

So far no one has announced plans to run in Senate district 35. Democrats and Republicans will hold special district nominating conventions to select candidates.

UPDATE: In the comments, Bleeding Heartland user nick29 posted a press release from Jim Gocke, who will seek the Republican nomination for this Senate seat. Gocke is a law partner of Jeff Lamberti.

DECEMBER 23 UPDATE: Culver set the election for January 18.

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Ruth Smith is the Democratic candidate for Iowa Senate district 48

A special nominating convention on December 1 chose Ruth Smith as the Democratic candidate for the January 4 special election in Iowa Senate district 48. Smith was the Democratic nominee in this district in 2008, losing to Kim Reynolds by 53 percent to 43 percent. Reynolds vacated the seat after being elected lieutenant governor.

After the jump I’ve posted biographical information on Smith from her campaign website. She’s a Lamoni native and current resident who works as a physical therapist in several southern Iowa counties. Her issues page focuses on health care, education, farming, small business and industrial policies.

Senate district 48 covers Adams, Clarke, Decatur, Montgomery, Ringgold, Taylor and Union counties. As of November 1, the district contained 10,444 registered Democrats, 15,257 Republicans and 14,306 no-party voters. Republicans have nominated Montgomery County Auditor Joni Ernst for the special election.

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Republican Joni Ernst nominated for Iowa Senate district 48

Yesterday Republicans in Iowa Senate district 48 formally nominated Montgomery County Auditor Joni Ernst for the January 4 special election in Iowa Senate district 48. Ernst declared her candidacy the same day Kim Reynolds resigned from the seat in order to serve as lieutenant governor. The district covers seven counties in south and southwestern Iowa.

Democrats will nominate a candidate for the special election on November 30. Ruth Smith, Reynolds’ Democratic opponent in 2008, is running for the seat again. For reasons I discussed here, Republicans are strongly favored to hold this district.

Recounts are ongoing in Senate district 13 (where Democrat Tod Bowman leads by 71 votes) and Senate district 47 (where Republican Mark Chelgren leads by 12). In the district 47 recount, only Wapello County ballots are being recounted. The official state canvass is this Saturday. If current leads hold, Democrats will have a 26-23 Senate majority going into the special election.

Previewing the Iowa Senate district 48 special election

Governor Chet Culver has set the special election in Iowa Senate district 48 for Tuesday, January 4. Kim Reynolds resigned from that seat after being elected lieutenant governor. Senate district 48 comprises seven southwest Iowa counties: Montgomery, Adams, Union, Clarke, Taylor, Ringgold, and Decatur.

Both parties will hold nominating conventions soon to choose candidates for this race. The Republican is likely to be Montgomery County Auditor Joni Ernst, who announced her candidacy immediately after Reynolds resigned. The Democratic candidate will probably be Ruth Smith, who ran against Reynolds in 2008. Smith is from Lamoni (Decatur County) and travels the district in her work as a physical therapist and coach. Her campaign website is here.

Anything can happen in a low-turnout special election, but Republicans are strongly favored to hold this seat. As of November 1, there were 10,444 registered Democrats, 15,257 Republicans and 14,306 no-party voters in Senate district 48. Reynolds defeated Smith 53 percent to 43 percent in 2008. In this year’s election, Culver received well under 40 percent of the vote in all of the seven counties and didn’t even break 30 percent in Montgomery County. Republican Joel Fry easily defeated Democratic State Representative Mike Reasoner in House district 95, containing Decatur, Clarke and most of Union county. GOP State Representative Cecil Dolecheck was unopposed in House district 96, which makes up the rest of Senate district 48.

If Republicans hold Senate district 48 and recounts don’t change the results in Senate districts 13 and 47, Democrats will hold a 26-24 in the Iowa Senate next year.

UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party’s special nominating convention will take place on December 1 in Creston. Republicans will nominate their candidate on November 23 in Creston.

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