Local runoff elections thread

Voters in Iowa’s two largest cities chose new representation for their city councils yesterday. In Cedar Rapids, the top four candidates from the November 5 election competed for two at-large seats. Ralph Russell and Susie Weinacht finished first and second, while incumbent Chuck Swore lost his seat in fourth place. Swore was the top vote-getter on November 5, but didn’t win a high enough percentage to avoid a runoff.

In Ward 1 on the northwest side of Des Moines, Bill Gray narrowly defeated Sean Bagniewski yesterday. Gray won the most votes in a field of five candidates on November 5, but fell short of the 50 percent needed to win outright. I knew Democrats on both sides in the Ward 1 race, but thankfully, the battle for that open seat never got nasty like the campaign between Skip Moore and Chris Diebel for the Des Moines at-large seat.

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Julian Garrett will represent Iowa Senate district 13 next year

State Representative Julian Garrett won yesterday’s special election in Iowa Senate district 13 by 3,908 votes to 2,627 for Democrat Mark Davitt, according to unofficial results (59.8 percent to 40.2 percent). He carried both the election-day vote and and the early vote.

During the 2014 legislative session, Democrats will retain a 26 to 24 Iowa Senate majority. Garrett will face re-election next year but will be heavily favored unless one of the far-right Republicans who sought the nomination for the special manages to defeat him in the primary. In 2012, Mitt Romney defeated Barack Obama by 51.4 percent of the vote to 47.2 percent in Senate district 13.

Iowa will be better off without Kent Sorenson’s toxic presence in the state Senate, even though Garrett’s victory makes this Senate district a safer Republican hold next November.

Garrett will soon resign as state representative, forcing a special election in Iowa House district 25 in early January. After the jump I’ve posted a map of that district, covering Madison County and parts of Warren County. In 2012, Garrett defeated Democratic challenger Katie Routh by 9,082 votes to 7,487 (54.8 percent to 45.1 percent), while the presidential vote in House district 25 split 54.1 percent for Romney, 44.3 percent for Obama.

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Republican Julian Garrett leads Iowa Senate district 13 early voting

Republican State Representative Julian Garrett has the wind at his back going into today’s special election in Iowa Senate district 13. The district covers Madison County and most of Warren County. According to local elections officials, Republicans have returned 398 absentee ballots in Madison County, compared to 173 returned ballots from registered Democrats and 75 from no-party voters. In Warren County, Republicans have returned 947 ballots, compared to 767 from Democrats and 157 from no-party voters. Garrett lives in Madison County and represents that county plus parts of Warren County in the Iowa House. Democratic candidate Mark Davitt grew up in Madison County and has long lived in the Indianola area, representing much of Warren County in the Iowa House for six years.

There’s no way to know yet which party was more successful identifying early supporters among independents, but GOP activists were able to generate more ballot requests and returns from partisans. As of November 1, Senate district 13 contained 13,291 registered Democrats, 15,037 Republicans, and 15,968 no-party voters.

Republican Senator Kent Sorenson’s resignation opened up this seat. If Garrett wins, Democrats would maintain a 26 to 24 majority in the Iowa Senate. A win for Davitt would expand the majority to 27-23. Regardless of today’s outcome, Senate district 13 will be on the ballot in 2014.

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Julian Garrett running tv ad for Iowa Senate district 13 special election

Next Tuesday, Iowans in Senate district 13 (Warren and Madison counties) will elect either Republican Julian Garrett or Democrat Mark Davitt as successor to the disgraced Kent Sorenson. Last night I saw a television commercial promoting Garrett several times on CNN. I don’t know whether the spot is running on broadcast networks as well. UPDATE: Bleeding Heartland user rockm points out in the comments that the ad is running on Des Moines area broadcast networks.

I wasn’t able to find it on YouTube, but I got it on tape, and I’ve posted my annotated transcript after the jump. You can see one still shot from the ad on Garrett’s Facebook page.

Garrett isn’t hiding his party affiliation in this Republican-leaning district; his red and white campaign logo includes an elephant. But in an apparent effort to distance himself from Washington-style politics, this commercial portrays Garrett as a pragmatist interested in “fixing problems,” not “fixing the blame.” It also emphasizes his “life on the farm,” not mentioning his long career as an attorney.

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Iowa local election results discussion thread

Polls closed at 8:00 pm across Iowa. What local elections are you following tonight, Bleeding Heartland readers?

Polk County voters appear to have approved Public Measure A to fund improvements to the county court system. UPDATE: With all precincts reporting, “yes” on A has 21,702 votes (67 percent) to 10,611 votes (33 percent) for “no.”

With 65 of 71 precincts reporting, Des Moines at-large City Council member Skip Moore has 7,720 votes, while challenger Chris Diebel has 4,725 votes. Incumbent Chris Hensley has been re-elected in the third ward, and in the open first ward, Bill Gray has a lead over Sean Bagniewski, the candidate preferred by many progressives and labor activists.

UPDATE: Windsor Heights results are in: for the first time I can remember, all of the candidates I supported won! Longtime city council member Diana Willits won the open race for mayor (Jerry Sullivan retired). Diana is one of the few Republicans I’ve consistently voted for over the years. Unofficial results for city council indicate that the winners were incumbent Betty Glover (whom I didn’t support) and candidates Steve Peterson and Tony Timm (for whom I voted). Peterson is a former city council member and was the Joe Biden precinct captain in Windsor Heights 2 in 2008. Timm is the executive director of the largest homeless shelter in Des Moines.

SECOND UPDATE: By a 2-1 margin, Iowa City voters upheld the city ordinance keeping 19 and 20-year-olds out of bars. The Iowa City council results will be a disappointment to those who were hoping to elect more progressives in the “people’s republic.”

THIRD UPDATE: Looks like the incumbents were re-elected in Coralville, a big loss for the Koch brothers’ group Americans for Prosperity.

FOURTH UPDATE: Two local officials who are running for the state legislature as Republicans lost yesterday. Royce Phillips was a city council member in Tiffin and is a candidate for the open Iowa Senate district 39. Mark LeRette was a city council member in Muscatine and is a candidate for the open House district 91.

Cedar Rapids voters re-elected Mayor Ron Corbett. An ten-year extension of the local-option sales tax also passed easily in the Cedar Rapids metro area.

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Des Moines City Council: Skip Moore's and Chris Diebel's case to voters

I can’t remember a local race that’s been more divisive for central Iowa Democrats than the Des Moines at-large City Council contest between Skip Moore and Chris Diebel. (That includes Ed Fallon’s challenge to Leonard Boswell in the 2008 Democratic primary to represent IA-03. In that race, the whole local establishment was on Boswell’s side.) I’ve been meaning to post an update on the city council race for the past week, but frankly, I wanted to avoid sparking a flamewar like some of the Facebook threads I’ve seen.

The early returns tonight indicate a big victory for Moore.

After the jump I’ve posted examples of positive and negative messages from the Diebel and Moore campaigns, along with one of the direct-mail pieces the National Association of Realtors Fund sent to Des Moines residents. The realtors’ group appears to be polling voters to gauge whether their mailing and radio ads have helped Diebel. During the last couple of days, several of my acquaintances in Des Moines have received telephone polls that asked them why they were supporting the candidate of their choice, and whether Diebel’s mail or the realtors’ mail affected their vote.  

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