IA-01: Bad news piling up for Rod Blum

Iowa’s most endangered U.S. House incumbent and some of his high-profile policy positions remain unpopular among voters in the first Congressional district, according to a new survey. Two-term Representative Rod Blum has trailed named challengers in Democratic polls taken before news broke about his shady internet company.

Adding to the incumbent’s troubles, many competitive Iowa House races will take place within the 20 counties that make up IA-01. Recent special legislative elections suggest that GOTV campaigns for down-ballot candidates could drive Democratic turnout significantly higher than the level seen in 2014, when Blum was first elected.

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Majority makers: 15 districts that will determine control of the Iowa House

Josh Hughes is a Drake University undergraduate and vice president of the I-35 school board. -promoted by desmoinesdem

There’s no question about it– 2018 is shaping up to be one of the most Democratic election years in nearly a decade. Polling and special election results all point to a significant advantage for Democrats in both voter preference and enthusiasm. It’s enough for most experts to consider the U.S. House a “tossup,” which is remarkable considering the gerrymandered playing field Democrats must compete on. Such a national political environment points to only one thing– the Iowa House of Representatives is in play too.

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Fourteen Iowa House Democrats who seem content to stay in minority forever

Iowa Democrats are in a deep hole, controlling only 20 of the 50 seats in the state Senate and 41 of 100 in the House. On the plus side, strong candidate recruitment and a wave of Republican retirements are giving Democrats plenty of opportunities to pick up House seats. (The 2018 Iowa Senate map is less promising.)

Raising money can be challenging for leaders of a minority party, who don’t call the shots on legislation. Furthermore, Iowa Republicans have a natural advantage, since the policies they promote are often tailored to suit wealthy individuals or corporate interest groups. While money doesn’t always determine campaign outcomes, quite a few Democratic lawmakers and challengers lost in 2016 after being massively outspent on television commercials and direct mail (see here, here, and here for examples).

Yet the latest set of campaign financial disclosures reveal little sense of urgency among Democratic incumbents who could do much more to help others win competitive districts this November.

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Get ready for a wave of Iowa House Republican retirements (updated)

State legislator retirements are typically a problem for the party out of power. Members of the majority can chair committees, drive the agenda, and get plenty of attention from lobbyists. Life in the minority caucus is much less satisfying.

Although Iowa House Republicans enjoy a 59-41 majority, four GOP representatives have already confirmed plans to step down this year, with more retirements likely before the March 16 filing deadline. When incumbents don’t seek re-election, party leaders sometimes must spend more resources defending open seats, leaving less money available for top and especially second-tier targets.

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Ken Rizer becomes first Iowa House Republican to abandon Trump

Republican State Representative Ken Rizer announced on Facebook Saturday evening that he “can’t in good conscience” vote for Donald Trump and will write in Mike Pence for president. Rizer, who supported Jeb Bush before the Iowa caucuses, said he had “aggressively prosecuted Airmen who sexually assaulted women” and is aware of “groping” and “lewd conduct” his college-aged daughters face. He concluded that Trump’s comments in a recently-released 2005 video “reveal an arrogant lack of character unfitting for a college undergrad, for an Airman, and most certainly for our Commander in Chief.”

Rizer represents House district 68, a swing seat in the Cedar Rapids suburbs. He defeated Democrat Daniel Lundby in 2014, but Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney here in the last presidential election cycle by 54.45 percent to 44.08 percent. The latest voter registration numbers show the district contains 6,596 active registered Democrats, 6,103 Republicans, and 7,384 no-party voters. As of October 7, Democrats in Rizer’s district lead Republicans in absentee ballots requested by 1,698 to 844 and lead in early votes cast by 672 to 221.

I enclose below more comments from Rizer this evening, a map of House district 68, and background on the incumbent and his Democratic challenger Molly Donahue. She’s on the web here and on Facebook here.

The precincts in House district 68 also lie in Iowa Senate district 34, where Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis faces Rene Gadelha in a race both parties are targeting.

I will update this post as needed if other sitting Iowa Republican lawmakers announce that they won’t support Trump. On the morning of October 8, State Senator Jack Whitver posted on Twitter, “The comments and actions by Donald Trump are inexcusable and despicable. He should step down.” However, Whitver did not clarify whether he will vote for Trump, assuming he stays in the race.

Also on October 8, State Senator David Johnson issued a statement calling on Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to “condemn Trump publicly” now that “Trump’s true anti-women sickness has been revealed.” Johnson is the only Iowa legislator affiliated with neither party, having left the GOP in June to protest Trump’s impending nomination for president.

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