GOP sweep in Ankeny may boost party spending on local races

Republican-aligned candidates had mixed results in this month’s city and school board elections across Iowa, but they swept the board in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny. Not only did mayoral candidate Mark Holm win by 20 points, both Republican candidates for city council (Kelly Whiting and Joe Ruddy) were elected, as were all three school board candidates campaigning against mask mandates (Joy Burk, Trent Murphy, and Sarah Barthole).

In contrast, anti-mask candidates for school board were shut out in many other large Iowa school districts, including Cedar Rapids, Davenport, West Des Moines, Ames, and Waukee. Candidates taking the same stance won only one out of three available seats on the Urbandale and Linn-Mar school boards.

Although no single factor fully explains the GOP’s success in Ankeny, conservative candidates benefited from an unusual level of partisan spending on what are nominally nonpartisan races in Iowa. The likely result will be more spending by political parties to promote future candidates for city and school offices.

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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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First thoughts on the Iowa House district 37 special election

Voters in Ankeny will soon choose a successor to State Representative John Landon, who passed away last month. Governor Kim Reynolds scheduled the Iowa House district 37 special election for Tuesday, September 14.

I’ll have more to say about this race once the field is set. Democrats nominated Andrea Phillips at a special district convention on August 7; Republicans have not yet selected a candidate.

For now, I want to touch on the opportunities and challenges this short campaign presents.

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Large Iowa cities spending more on police, less on social services

Iowa’s seven largest cities are spending more on policing per capita and a greater portion of their municipal budgets on law enforcement compared to the 1990s, according to a new report by the Iowa Policy Project. Over the same time period, spending on social services per capita and as a share of the municipal budget has declined in six of those cities.

Colin Gordon and Peter Fisher authored “Policing, public safety and community priorities,” published on July 22 (also available in pdf format). They examined budgets for the 24 Iowa cities with populations of at least 20,000, because “it is in our larger urban settings in Iowa that the problems with policing — including a well-documented pattern of disproportionate minority contact — are most acute.”

Seven of the cities studied are “metropolitan”: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Waterloo, Council Bluffs, and Dubuque. Seven are suburbs in large metro areas: West Des Moines, Ankeny, Urbandale, Bettendorf, Marion, Coralville, and Johnston. Three are college towns: Iowa City, Ames, and Cedar Falls. Seven are micropolitan cities: Mason City, Marshalltown, Clinton, Muscatine, Burlington, Fort Dodge, and Ottumwa.

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