# SD 48

Republicans outspending Democrats in most Iowa Senate battlegrounds

Iowa House and Senate candidates were required to file their last pre-election campaign finance reports on Friday. In stark contrast to four years ago, Republicans are outspending Democrats in most of the contested state Senate districts. (I’ll address spending in the key Iowa House races in a different post.)

Currently, there are 25 Senate Democrats, 23 Republicans, and one independent. If former GOP Senator David Johnson makes good on his promise to remain an independent in 2017, and Democrats win the December special election to replace the late Senator Joe Seng, Republicans would need to pick up three seats to gain control of the upper chamber for the first time since 2004.

I enclose below in-kind contribution figures for the Senate districts expected to be in play next Tuesday. Candidates running elsewhere did not report large in-kind contributions from their respective parties.

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IA-01 Democratic candidate news roundup

Another Democrat is moving closer to a Congressional bid in Iowa’s first district. The Daily Iowan reported several days ago that Ravi Patel “is assembling campaign operatives and meeting with influential donors in Eastern Iowa in preparation for the run.” He is best known as principal and president of Hawkeye Hotels, a fast-growing company his parents established. Pat Rynard wrote on the Iowa Starting Line blog that Patel “has built connections from holding many fundraisers for Democratic candidates” and is “an entrepreneur involved in many startup businesses.”

If he runs for Congress, Patel told the Daily Iowan that his campaign “would be data-driven and heavy on social media.” His biggest potential weakness would probably be his youth (current age: 29). Iowans have nominated some young candidates who faced competitive primaries against more experienced rivals, most recently Ben Lange, the GOP’s 2012 nominee in IA-01. But despite a lot of excitement on social media, State Representative Anesa Kajtazovic didn’t make much headway with IA-01 Democratic voters, finishing fourth in the 2014 primary. Anecdotally, many Democrats liked Kajtazovic but questioned whether she had enough experience for the job she was seeking. Patel would also be competing against others who have more longstanding ties to the district. Although he owns a home in Cedar Rapids now, he has spent most of his life in either Burlington or Iowa City, which are located in the second Congressional district.

The front-runner in the Democratic primary remains Cedar Rapids City Council member Monica Vernon, who last week added her first labor union endorsement to the long list of sate legislators backing her second bid for Congress. After the jump I’ve posted the press release announcing the Teamsters Local 238 endorsement of Vernon. That local did not endorse in the 2014 primary to represent IA-01, but two other Teamsters locals backed the eventual winner Pat Murphy. Note: the press release mentions that Teamsters Local 238 has approximately 6,000 members. A representative for the union told me that between 2,000 and 2,500 of those members live in the IA-01 counties.

Other Democrats considering a bid in IA-01 include former Governor Chet Culver, former State Senator Swati Dandekar (who placed third in the 2014 primary), and former Saturday Night Live actor Gary Kroeger. His most recent blog post, which I’ve excerpted below, takes a quick look at the history of America’s major political parties with a view to reducing the “vitriol in our disagreements.” Kroeger posted today on Facebook that if elected to Congress, he would push for creating a national jobs program inspired by a non-profit foundation he profiled at his blog a couple of years ago.

Any comments about the IA-01 race are welcome in this thread. Republican blogger Craig Robinson pointed out recently that GOP incumbent Rod Blum will benefit tremendously from having U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley on the ballot in 2016.

It’s also worth noting that at least three and perhaps as many as six battleground Iowa Senate races will be located within IA-01 next year. State Senator Jeff Danielson will seek a fourth term in Senate district 30, covering parts of Waterloo and Cedar Falls; he faced well-funded challengers in his last two re-election campaigns. State Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm won by just 126 votes in Senate district 26 in 2012. I expect the GOP to target that district, half of which is in IA-01 and half in IA-04. Republicans are less likely to mount a serious challenge against either State Senator Liz Mathis in Senate district 34 or State Senator Brian Schoenjahn in Senate district 32, but a surprise retirement would instantly make either of those races competitive. Meanwhile, Democrats are likely to target Senate district 28, where GOP State Senator Mike Breitbach won by only 17 votes in 2012. First-term Senator Dan Zumbach could also face a serious challenger in Senate district 48. After the jump I’ve posted a map showing all the Iowa Senate district lines. UPDATE: Perhaps I should also have mentioned Democratic State Senator Steve Sodders (SD-36) and Republican Tim Kapucian (SD-38), who will be up for re-election in 2016 as well in counties that are part of IA-01. I haven’t heard of potentially strong challengers in either Iowa Senate district, but that could change before next spring.

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Democratic and Republican party spending in the Iowa Senate races

Candidates for the Iowa legislature were required to submit campaign finance disclosure reports on October 19 and November 2. The Schedule E forms on “In-Kind Contributions” contained the most interesting numbers, because they showed how Democratic and Republican party leaders are allocating resources across the battleground districts.

After the jump I’ve enclosed in-kind contribution figures for the Senate districts expected to be in play tomorrow. Candidates running in other Senate races did not report large in-kind contributions from their respective parties.

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Four strategies for interest group Iowa legislative endorsements

Many candidates for the Iowa House and Senate tout endorsements by outside groups in their campaign communications. Some of those groups pay for direct mail, phone calls, or even advertising supporting their endorsed candidates.

Iowa’s influential political action committees and advocacy groups have very different ways of getting involved in the state legislative campaign. Follow me after the jump for examples of four distinct strategies.

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Iowa Senate ad watch: I-JOBS lies edition (updated)

The I-JOBS infrastructure bonding initiative helped fund more than 1,600 infrastructure projects around Iowa during the “Great Recession.” From the beginning, Republicans have used misleading rhetoric to make their case against I-JOBS. Terry Branstad and GOP lawmakers exaggerated the initiative’s costs and understated its benefits repeatedly during the 2010 campaign.

Now some Iowa Senate candidates are putting lies about I-JOBS at the center of their radio advertising.

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Iowa primary election results thread

Polls closed across Iowa at 9 pm, and I will update this post periodically as results come in from around the states. Any comments related to today’s elections are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- As expected, Wisconsin Democrats fell short in their effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker.

UPDATE: Results are after the jump.  

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Weekend open thread: Candidate filing deadline edition

I’m posting the weekend thread early, because the filing period for primary election candidates in Iowa closed this afternoon. The Secretary of State’s Office posted the full list of candidates here (pdf). John Deeth has been covering the filing on a daily basis all month at his blog. Some highlights from races I’m watching are after the jump.

This is an open thread; all topics welcome.

UPDATE: Gotta agree with Senator Chuck Grassley: the History Channel is useless.

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Competitive GOP primary coming in Iowa Senate district 48

Two men from Delaware County, Dan Zumbach and Brian Cook, have declared their intention to seek the Republican nomination in the new Iowa Senate district 48. Their plans indicate that a competitive GOP primary will determine Democrat Nate Willems’ opponent whether or not Cindy Golding of Linn County follows through on her plans to run in Senate district 48 next year as well. Golding is the GOP nominee for the November 8 special election in Iowa Senate district 18.

A district map and background on Zumbach and Cook are after the jump.

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Republicans nominate Cindy Golding for Iowa Senate district 18

Linn County Republican Party co-chair Cindy Golding won the GOP nomination for the November 8 special election in Iowa Senate district 18 tonight. To my surprise, Golding won enough votes on the first ballot against Mary Rathje and Matt Dummermuth.

UPDATE: Republicans will need a new candidate for the Cedar Rapids suburban swing district in 2012, even if Golding wins this year’s special election. Details are at the end of this post.

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Willems (D) announces bid in Iowa Senate district 48

Two-term State Representative Nate Willems announced this morning that he will run for the Iowa Senate in the new district 48 in northeast Iowa. Willems was first elected in 2008 to Iowa House district 29, comprising parts of Linn and Johnson Counties. He is the ranking Democrat on the Iowa House Education Committee.

Senate district 48 comprises all of Delaware County, most of Linn County (other than Cedar Rapids and its suburbs), and part of Jones and Buchanan counties. Part of Willems’ current district (southeast Linn County, including the towns of Mount Vernon and Lisbon) are in Senate district 48. He grew up in Anamosa (Jones County), which is also in the district. After the jump I’ve posted the detailed map of the Senate district 48, the map showing all 50 new Iowa Senate districts, and Willems’ campaign announcement.

No incumbent senator lives in the new district 48, and it is one of the most evenly-balanced districts created in the redistricting plan. As of April 2011 the district contained 11,553 registered Democrats, 11,552 Republicans and 15,559 no-party voters.

Democrats currently hold a 26 to 24 majority in the Iowa Senate. For Democrats to maintain that majority after the 2012 elections, district 48 is probably a must-win.  

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Republican Joni Ernst wins Senate district 48 special election

Montgomery County will need to find a new auditor, because Joni Ernst won today’s special election in Iowa Senate district 48. With all seven counties reporting, Ernst led Democrat Ruth Smith by 4,978 votes to 2,400 (67 percent to 33 percent), according to unofficial results posted on the Secretary of State’s website.

Kim Reynolds was elected to this seat in 2008 but resigned from the Senate after being elected lieutenant governor. The district comprises the south and southwest Iowa counties of Montgomery, Adams, Union, Clarke, Taylor, Ringgold, and Decatur.

Ernst’s victory gives the Republicans 23 seats in the upper chamber of the Iowa legislature. Democrats hold a slim majority with 26 seats. Senate district 35 will be filled in a January 18 special election between Republican Jack Whitver and Democrat John Calhoun.

Ruth Smith is the Democratic candidate for Iowa Senate district 48

A special nominating convention on December 1 chose Ruth Smith as the Democratic candidate for the January 4 special election in Iowa Senate district 48. Smith was the Democratic nominee in this district in 2008, losing to Kim Reynolds by 53 percent to 43 percent. Reynolds vacated the seat after being elected lieutenant governor.

After the jump I’ve posted biographical information on Smith from her campaign website. She’s a Lamoni native and current resident who works as a physical therapist in several southern Iowa counties. Her issues page focuses on health care, education, farming, small business and industrial policies.

Senate district 48 covers Adams, Clarke, Decatur, Montgomery, Ringgold, Taylor and Union counties. As of November 1, the district contained 10,444 registered Democrats, 15,257 Republicans and 14,306 no-party voters. Republicans have nominated Montgomery County Auditor Joni Ernst for the special election.

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Recounts didn't change Iowa Senate district 13 and 47 results

Catching up on pre-Thanksgiving news, recounts concluded on November 24 in the two Iowa Senate districts decided by extremely narrow margins. Republican Andrew Naeve conceded to Tod Bowman, who won the open Senate district 13 by 70 votes out of nearly 20,000 cast. Naeve netted only one vote during the recount. Democrats have a almost a two to one voter registration edge in this Senate district (pdf file), so it shouldn’t have been close even in a Republican wave year. The GOP also managed to win House district 25, which makes up half of Senate district 13, after convincing one of Bowman’s unsuccessful Democratic primary rivals to run for the House as a Republican.

Democratic incumbent Keith Kreiman conceded to Mark Chelgren on November 24 after a recount in Senate district 47 failed to change Chelgren’s 12-vote lead out of just over 19,000 cast. Kreiman had served two terms in the Iowa Senate and five terms in the Iowa House before that. Democrats have a voter registration advantage in Kreiman’s district, though not as large as in Senate district 13. Kreiman underperformed House Democratic incumbents Mary Gaskill (district 93) and Kurt Swaim (district 94), whose each represent half of his Senate district.

Democrats will be hoping that the redistricting puts Chelgren on the ballot in 2012, rather than after a full four-year term. Most even-numbered years, half of the 50 seats in the chamber are up for grabs, but in the first election after a new map is adopted, some “extra” races take place in Senate districts containing zero or more than one incumbent.

With Senate districts 13 and 47 now resolved, Iowa Democrats are assured of holding at least 26 seats in the upper chamber. Republicans hold 23 seats and are favored to win the January 4 special election in Senate district 48.

Republican Joni Ernst nominated for Iowa Senate district 48

Yesterday Republicans in Iowa Senate district 48 formally nominated Montgomery County Auditor Joni Ernst for the January 4 special election in Iowa Senate district 48. Ernst declared her candidacy the same day Kim Reynolds resigned from the seat in order to serve as lieutenant governor. The district covers seven counties in south and southwestern Iowa.

Democrats will nominate a candidate for the special election on November 30. Ruth Smith, Reynolds’ Democratic opponent in 2008, is running for the seat again. For reasons I discussed here, Republicans are strongly favored to hold this district.

Recounts are ongoing in Senate district 13 (where Democrat Tod Bowman leads by 71 votes) and Senate district 47 (where Republican Mark Chelgren leads by 12). In the district 47 recount, only Wapello County ballots are being recounted. The official state canvass is this Saturday. If current leads hold, Democrats will have a 26-23 Senate majority going into the special election.

Previewing the Iowa Senate district 48 special election

Governor Chet Culver has set the special election in Iowa Senate district 48 for Tuesday, January 4. Kim Reynolds resigned from that seat after being elected lieutenant governor. Senate district 48 comprises seven southwest Iowa counties: Montgomery, Adams, Union, Clarke, Taylor, Ringgold, and Decatur.

Both parties will hold nominating conventions soon to choose candidates for this race. The Republican is likely to be Montgomery County Auditor Joni Ernst, who announced her candidacy immediately after Reynolds resigned. The Democratic candidate will probably be Ruth Smith, who ran against Reynolds in 2008. Smith is from Lamoni (Decatur County) and travels the district in her work as a physical therapist and coach. Her campaign website is here.

Anything can happen in a low-turnout special election, but Republicans are strongly favored to hold this seat. As of November 1, there were 10,444 registered Democrats, 15,257 Republicans and 14,306 no-party voters in Senate district 48. Reynolds defeated Smith 53 percent to 43 percent in 2008. In this year’s election, Culver received well under 40 percent of the vote in all of the seven counties and didn’t even break 30 percent in Montgomery County. Republican Joel Fry easily defeated Democratic State Representative Mike Reasoner in House district 95, containing Decatur, Clarke and most of Union county. GOP State Representative Cecil Dolecheck was unopposed in House district 96, which makes up the rest of Senate district 48.

If Republicans hold Senate district 48 and recounts don’t change the results in Senate districts 13 and 47, Democrats will hold a 26-24 in the Iowa Senate next year.

UPDATE: The Iowa Democratic Party’s special nominating convention will take place on December 1 in Creston. Republicans will nominate their candidate on November 23 in Creston.

Gronstal re-elected leader and other Iowa Senate news

The Iowa Senate Democratic caucus on November 14 re-elected Mike Gronstal as majority leader and Jack Kibbie as Senate president. Five senators will serve as assistant majority leaders: Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City, Bill Dotzler of Waterloo, Wally Horn of Cedar Rapids, Amanda Ragan of Mason City, and Steve Sodders of State Center. Linn County Supervisor Brent Oleson got Iowa Republicans excited on Saturday by tweeting that Horn would challenge Gronstal, but according to this Des Moines Register report by Jennifer Jacobs, “No one mounted a challenge for either leadership role, several senators said.”

More Iowa Senate news is after the jump.

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UPDATED: Recounts coming in Senate districts 13 and 47

Republican Andrew Naeve is asking for a recount in Iowa Senate district 13, the Des Moines Register reported today. According to the official canvass from Dubuque, Jackson and Clinton counties, Naeve finished 71 votes behind Democrat Tod Bowman out of nearly 20,000 votes cast.

It’s unlikely a recount would change the totals by more than a few votes, but I understand why Naeve is trying. If the Republicans could flip the result in district 13, they would have a chance for equal power in a 25-25 Senate.

As things stand, Democrats will probably hold a 26-24 majority in the upper chamber. I haven’t heard whether Democratic Senator Keith Kreiman will request a recount in district 47, where he trails Mark Chelgren by 12 votes out of more than 19,000 cast.

UPDATE: According to Saturday’s Des Moines Register, Kreiman is asking for a recount in district 47. I would too if I were behind by less than 0.01 percent of the vote.

In related news, Lieutenant Governor-elect Kim Reynolds officially resigned her state Senate seat today. Her resignation clears the way for a special election in district 48 before the Iowa legislature convenes in January. As of November 1, there were 10,444 registered Democrats, 15,257 Republicans and 14,306 no-party voters in the southern Iowa district covering Montgomery, Adams, Taylor, Union, Ringgold, Decatur and Clarke counties.

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