Four takeaways from the Iowa House district 37 special election

Republican Mike Bousselot won the September 14 special election in Iowa House district 37 with 51.6 percent of the vote to 48.3 percent for Democrat Andrea Phillips, according to unofficial results from the Polk County elections office. Those numbers should change very little, since late-arriving absentee ballots mailed before the election can no longer be counted under the voter suppression law Republicans enacted this year.

Once Bousselot is sworn in to represent this district covering part of Ankeny and northern Polk County, the GOP will again hold 59 of the 100 Iowa House seats. Democrats currently hold 40 seats, and an October 12 special election will fill the vacancy in House district 29.

I’ll have more to say about today’s race once more details become available on the partisan breakdown of the electorate. For now, a few quick hits:

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Iowa House district 37: Mike Bousselot banks on false ads

The short special election campaign in Iowa House district 37 has been a costly affair, as expected. Disclosures filed last week show the Iowa Democratic Party has spent $306,470.21 on behalf of Andrea Phillips, while the Republican Party of Iowa has spent $234,327.12 supporting Mike Bousselot.

As is typical for targeted Iowa legislative races, the bulk of the spending has gone toward television and digital advertising: roughly $285,000 on the Democratic side and just under $230,000 from Republicans.

Bleeding Heartland analyzed the introductory ads for Phillips and Bousselot here. During the last two weeks of the campaign, I’ve seen more negative advertising about both candidates on Des Moines-based broadcast and cable television. The difference is that the Democratic ads highlight truthful claims about Bousselot’s past work, whereas the Republican ads are wholly false–much like the spots they ran against Phillips in 2020.

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First thoughts on the Iowa House district 29 special election

State Representative Wes Breckenridge resigned from the Iowa House this week, effective September 10. The three-term Democrat, who is a retired Newton police officer, was recently hired as assistant director for the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. He wrote in the Newton Daily News that he didn’t feel he could do justice to his legislative work and his new responsibilities.

Breckenridge was among the most conservative members of the House Democratic caucus. During this year’s legislative session, he voted for both versions of a policing bill that will exacerbate racial disparities in the criminal justice system. In fact, he was the only Democrat to vote for the final version of that bill. He was also the lone Democrat to support a bill that eliminated permit requirements for Iowans to purchase or carry pistols or revolvers. However, Breckenridge voted against the extreme constitutional amendment on guns that will be on the 2022 ballot. He had opposed several other GOP bills over the years that loosened Iowa’s gun laws.

Governor Kim Reynolds will soon schedule a special election to fill the remainder of Breckenridge’s term. The seat will be a tough hold for Democrats.

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Four thoughts about Iowa House district 37 early vote totals

Two weeks before voters will elect a new state legislator to represent parts of Ankeny and northern Polk County, Democrats living in Iowa House district 37 had requested more than five times as many absentee ballots as Republicans.

Polk County Elections Office staff told Bleeding Heartland that 2,818 residents of House district 37 had requested an early ballot by 4:00 pm on August 31. Of those, 2,261 were Democrats, 398 were Republicans, and 159 were affiliated with neither party.

The vast majority of absentee ballots sent to voters have not yet been returned. As of August 31, the Polk County auditor’s office had received 375 completed ballots from registered Democrats and 36 from Republicans.

Four caveats:

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Governor, Ankeny mom worked to undermine COVID-19 safety in schools

“I believe that parental control is local control,” Governor Kim Reynolds told WHO-TV’s Dave Price earlier this month. “I think you’re going to see some interesting school board races this year also,” she added with a smirk.

This past weekend, Reynolds recounted how she “strategized” with Ankeny parent Sarah Barthole last year to force Iowa schools to abandon hybrid models, which allowed for social distancing in classrooms.

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COVID-19 as backdrop for Iowa House special election tv ads

Early voting has begun in Iowa House district 37, where voters in parts of Ankeny and northern Polk County will choose a new state representative on September 14. Bleeding Heartland previously covered the recent voting history of this suburban area, as well as background on Democrat Andrea Phillips and Republican Mike Bousselot.

Both candidates and many of their supporters (including other Iowa House Democrats and U.S. Senate candidate Abby Finkenauer) have been knocking doors in the district. Direct personal contact has long been considered one of the most effective ways to drive turnout in a state legislative race.

Phillips and Bousselot are also advertising in the Des Moines market on broadcast and cable television. Both introductory ads tap into voters’ feelings about the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation policies.

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