Will wonders never cease: Windsor Heights moves toward more sidewalks

Fulfilling the hopes of residents who have been working toward this goal for many years, the Windsor Heights City Council voted 4-1 last night to approve a new sidewalks ordinance with a view to installing sidewalks soon on more city streets.

To the surprise of many who don’t live here, sidewalks have aroused passionate opposition in Windsor Heights, becoming a key issue in multiple local elections.

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Iowa House district 21 special election preview: Tom Moore vs. Tim Ennis

Voters will elect a new state representative tomorrow in Iowa House district 21, which covers all of Union and Adams counties, most of Cass County, and some rural areas in Pottawattamie County (see enclosed map). The winner will succeed longtime Iowa House Republican Jack Drake, who passed away in October.

Tom Moore is the GOP candidate here, having won a six-way contest at a special nominating convention easily on the first ballot. I have been unable to find a detailed bio on Moore, but Ian Richardson reported for the Creston News Advertiser that Moore lives in Griswold (Cass County) and is a “retired teacher and former assistant manager for Southwest Iowa Ag in Massena.”

Moore will face Democrat Tim Ennis, a longtime resident of Corning (Adams County) who has held various jobs in the agriculture sector, particularly grain marketing. More background on Ennis is below. He was the 2014 Democratic challenger to Drake.

Although anything can happen in a low-turnout special election, Moore should hold Drake’s seat with little trouble. House district 21 contains more than twice as many registered Republicans as Democrats, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. Mitt Romney outpolled Barack Obama here by 53.64 percent to 45.01 percent in 2012; Joni Ernst crushed Bruce Braley here by a 2:1 margin in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. Also last November, Drake defeated Ennis in the Iowa House race by more than 3,000 votes.

I enclose below a district map and more background on Ennis. UPDATE: Added more information about Moore.

SECOND UPDATE: Moore won the election by 1,409 votes to 853 according to unofficial results. I had to laugh at the comment from Republican State Leadership Committee President Matt Walter: “His victory allows House Republicans to strengthen their majority—proving yet again that Republicans win by running qualified and experienced candidates who connect with voters, even in states twice carried by President Obama.” No, Moore’s victory allows the GOP to maintain the same Iowa House majority (57 to 43 seats), and he won because this is a strongly Republican district.

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Iowa local election results discussion thread

What election results were you watching tonight, Bleeding Heartland readers? I was excited to see the “Core 4” progressive slate sweep the Iowa City council elections, despite a well-financed campaign for the rival group, representing Chamber of Commerce types who have long dominated local government. John Deeth described what was at stake in those races, and Tom Carsner put it succinctly in a letter to the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

The “growth at any price to grow the tax base” philosophy of the present council majority puts Iowa City at financial risk when one TIF-financed Big Bang project turns south. A series of smaller investor-financed mixed use — business and residential — projects can energize multiple neighborhoods and build a more reliable and sustainable tax base.

[…] I urge Iowa City to welcome the just, equal, affordable, inclusive and sustainable growth vision presented by John Thomas, Rockne Cole, Pauline Taylor and Jim Throgmorton. Vote for them to shake loose the scared establishment of the present City Council.

UPDATE: In his analysis of the Iowa City results, Deeth sees outgoing Mayor Matt Hayek’s “ham-handed editorial” in the Iowa City Press-Citizen on October 14 as “a turning point in the campaign.” Bleeding Heartland user corncam points to another factor that may have helped the “Core 4.”

Davenport voters resoundingly elected Frank Klipsch mayor, ousting incumbent Bill Gluba by more than a 2: 1 margin. It’s the end of a long political career for Gluba, who won his first election (to the Iowa legislature) 45 years ago. Gluba was an activist even before running for office, participating in the 1963 march on Washington for civil rights. His handling of some local controversies this year, including his role in forcing out Davenport’s city manager, prompted the Quad-City Times to endorse Klipsch, a former CEO of the local YMCA who has a “reputation for bringing diverse groups together” and a “more collaborative style.”

In my own corner of the world, I was pleasantly surprised that challengers Threase Harms and Zac Bales-Henry defeated the two Windsor Heights City Council incumbents on the ballot. CORRECTION: Only Harms won her seat outright. Bales-Henry will have to face Charlene Butz in a December 8 runoff election. Butz and Dave Burgess were frequent “no” votes on any kind of change or progress, and Butz was a particularly dedicated opponent of new sidewalks on streets where they are badly needed. Bales-Henry promised to work to “Create a more efficient and walkable neighborhood […] and ensure that each citizen can walk, run or bike to any location within city limits safely and easily,” as well as trying to improve the local trails system. Harms also expressed support for new sidewalks on key city streets. You never know what could become a hot-button issue in local politics, and the sidewalks question has been one of the most divisive issues in Windsor Heights over the past decade. UPDATE: The anti-sidewalks voters may come out in force for the December 8 runoff, but even if Butz is re-elected, there might be enough votes for change, because two of the incumbents who were not on the ballot this year (Steve Peterson and Tony Timm) have expressed support for new sidewalks in the past.

My son and I stopped at Harms’ home while trick-or-treating on Friday. When I mentioned that I’d seen lots of her yard signs around town, she responded, “Yard signs don’t vote.” Right answer! Clearly she knows how to GOTV, because she finished way ahead of the rest of the field in our at-large elections. That’s a rare accomplishment for a first-time candidate running against incumbents.

UPDATE: I was sorry to see that Cedar Rapids residents rejected a levy to fund public libraries. Todd Dorman covered the campaign for library funding over the weekend.

Voters in Des Moines re-elected Mayor Frank Cownie and the city councillors who were on the ballot. I didn’t realize that Cownie is now the longest-serving Des Moines mayor. In the most hotly-contested race, the open seat in Ward 2 on the east side of Des Moines, turnout was down and Linda Westergaard, backed by business interests including a realtors’ lobbying group, defeated Marty Mauk.

photo credit: Mark Carlson

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Special election in Iowa House district 21 will be on December 8

Iowa Capitol photo Fotolia_24694213_XS_zpsbnpz4jnl.jpg

Today Governor Terry Branstad scheduled a special election in Iowa House district 21 for Tuesday, December 8. Voters will elect a successor to longtime State Representative Jack Drake, who passed away last weekend.

Iowa House district 21 covers all of Union and Adams counties, most of Cass County, and some rural areas of Pottawattamie County. A detailed map is after the jump. Like most of southwest Iowa, it leans heavily Republican. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that House district 21 contains 3,720 active registered Democrats, 8,256 Republicans, and 7,401 no-party voters. Mitt Romney carried 53.64 percent of the vote here in the 2012 presidential election, and Joni Ernst (who is from nearby Montgomery County) won 63.75 percent of the votes in House district 21 in last year’s U.S. Senate race.

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Charles Holz set to replace Chuck Soderberg in Iowa House district 5

Charles Holz won a special nominating convention last night in Iowa House district 5, where former House Appropriations Committee Chair Chuck Soderberg resigned his seat last month. Two Republicans sought the nomination for the November 3 special election. Holz is retired after a long career as a large animal veterinarian in Le Mars; he has also published work in his field. Citing a press release from the Plymouth County GOP, the Sioux City Journal reported earlier this month that Holz “served on the Le Mars school board for 18 years, including two years as board president.” UPDATE: Added below a Republican Party of Iowa statement containing more biographical information.

According to The Iowa Statesman blog, Holz “defeated rural Woodbury County small business owner and homeschool parent Brad Hopp on the first ballot” at the nominating convention.

To my knowledge, no Democrat has announced plans to run for House district 5, which covers all of Plymouth County and some rural areas of Woodbury County. Click here to view a district map. Ideally, Democrats would compete for every state legislative district, but House district 5 is one of the safest for Republicans. Mitt Romney carried 65.9 percent of the presidential vote here in 2012, and Joni Ernst won 71.2 percent of the 2014 votes for U.S. Senate. The district contains 3,819 active registered Democrats, 9,015 Republicans, and 6,697 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

Five-term State Representative Pat Grassley is set to replace Soderberg as chair of the Iowa House Appropriations Committee for the 2016 legislative session. Although that’s a plum committee assignment, working out a deal with Iowa Senate Democrats on the state budget will likely be more difficult than usual next year, because of the fallout from Governor Terry Branstad’s latest line-item vetoes. The key Republicans involved in this year’s budget deal-making quit their jobs this summer.

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Iowa House district 5 special election coming on November 3

Governor Terry Branstad has set the special election to replace Chuck Soderberg in Iowa House district 5 for November 3, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate told KTIV news today. Last month, Soderberg announced plans to resign in order to become general manager for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives in Des Moines.

A map of House district 5 is after the jump. Even in a low-turnout special election, Democrats don’t have a realistic chance of winning this seat, where Mitt Romney carried 65.9 percent of the vote in 2012 and Joni Ernst won 71.2 percent of vote in last year’s U.S. Senate race. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office show that House district 5 contains 3,819 active registered Democrats, 9,015 Republicans, and 6,697 no-party voters.

The special election in House district 5 will still be important, though. Whoever wins the Republican district nominating convention could be set up for a long legislative career. UPDATE: The GOP special nominating convention will take place on the evening of September 28 at the Farm Bureau Building in Le Mars.

Soderberg’s retirement will allow newly-selected Iowa House Speaker Linda Upmeyer to choose someone new to chair the House Appropriations Committee. I expect the 2016 Iowa legislative session to be largely unproductive, not only because it’s an election year but also because Branstad’s funding vetoes this summer destroyed any incentive toward bipartisan cooperation. That said, lawmakers cannot adjourn without passing a budget for the next fiscal year, so the Appropriations Committee chair will be an important player at the Capitol next year.

Notably, four key Republicans who were involved in this year’s budget negotiations (including Soderberg) have quit their jobs since Branstad exercised his veto power. The governor’s communications director Jimmy Centers announced last week that he too will soon leave the administration for an unspecified private-sector job.

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