Lessons of 2018: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again

Third in a series interpreting the results of Iowa’s 2018 state and federal elections.

At least three and possibly four newly-elected members of the Iowa House had campaigned unsuccessfully for the same seats in past election cycles. Three newly-elected members of the Iowa Senate lost elections for other offices in recent years.

They join a long list of Iowa politicians–including Tom Harkin and Kim Reynolds–who did not win the first time they sought a legislative office.

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Twenty Iowa House races to watch, with ratings

In some states, gerrymandering predetermines the outcome of most legislative races. But many Iowa House and Senate districts are in play every election year, thanks to our non-partisan redistricting system.

Drawing on voter registration totals, recent voting history, absentee ballot numbers, and where Democratic or Republican leaders have made large expenditures, I’ve identified the state House seats most likely to indicate whether Democrats can win control of the lower chamber, where Republicans now enjoy a 59-41 majority.

The districts are grouped in four categories: Democratic-held open seat, Republican-held open seats, Democratic incumbents facing strong challengers, and GOP incumbents facing strong challengers.

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Race ratings: Battle for the Iowa House

Josh Hughes analyzes sixteen Iowa House races likely to be competitive and points to other districts that could also be in play. Hughes is a Drake University undergraduate and vice president of the I-35 school board. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Iowa Democrats have had a pretty good summer. In recent weeks, election forecasters have moved the races for governor and third Congressional district to “toss-up” status, Fred Hubbell and other Iowa Democrats have blown past Republicans in fundraising, and Iowa Republicans have begun to hit the panic button on an election many believed would not be competitive just one year ago. Democrats appear to have the wind at their back for the first time in several election cycles here, after blowout losses in 2016 and 2014.

Winning back Terrace Hill and Congressional seats is at the forefront of many activists’ minds. Doing so would be hugely impressive and important to stopping reactionary right-wing legislation at the state and federal levels. However, in order to not just stop the bad stuff but also advance good legislation, Democrats will need to do more than just defeat Governor Kim Reynolds. The race for the Iowa legislature, where 25 of 50 Senate seats and all 100 Iowa House seats are up for election this year, will determine what kind of policy will be possible over the next two years in our state.

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Are Republicans conceding Iowa House district 43?

Republicans spent more than $420,000 defending Iowa House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow’s seat during the last election cycle. But after Hagenow moved further west to a safer seat, his chosen successor Michael Boal raised under $12,000 during his first four and a half months as a candidate in House district 43.

The latest campaign financial disclosures show Boal has just $3,697.26 cash on hand for a race Democrats have pegged as one of their top state legislative pickup opportunities nationally. Jennifer Konfrst, making her second bid to represent this suburban district, has raised more than $30,000 since the beginning of this year and has $51,257.85 cash on hand.

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Jason Kander: If you come for our right to vote, we're coming for your job

“Iowa is on the front lines of this fight for voting rights in America,” Former Missouri Secretary of State Jason Kander told state Democratic convention delegates on June 16. “And I’m here because a threat to democracy anywhere in America is a threat to democracy everywhere in America.”

The founder of Let America Vote was the only non-Iowan on the convention speaker’s list. His remarks were a highlight of the morning proceedings, so I’ve enclosed below the audio clip and full transcript. Among the memorable lines: “let’s send a message to every vote-suppressing politician in Iowa and across America that if you want to attack democracy, you’ve got to go through us. And if you want to come for our right to vote, we’re coming for your job.”

Kander has visited our state more than a dozen times in the last year and a half, raising awareness about voter suppression and headlining events for Democratic candidates or progressive organizations. Let America Vote’s executive director Abe Rakov has been based in Des Moines since last fall.

The group will particularly target the Iowa secretary of state race; Kander told reporters yesterday that Democratic nominee Deidre DeJear is “totally awesome.” (Fact check: true.) Let America Vote will also support some state legislative candidates. Last weekend they had interns out canvassing for four Democratic challengers in the suburbs of Des Moines: Heather Matson (House district 38), Karin Derry (House district 39), Kristin Sunde (House district 42), and Jennifer Konfrst (House district 43). Kander said on June 16 that Let America Vote has more than 40 interns on the ground in Iowa and knocked more than 7,000 doors here in the last five days.

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