IA-02 primary: Hart gaining strength, Croken considering, Russell's out

More than six dozen prominent Democrats endorsed former State Senator Rita Hart’s campaign for U.S. House on May 22. The list enclosed in full below includes activists from each of the 24 counties in Iowa’s second Congressional district. The best-known endorsers are former Iowa Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Agriculture Patty Judge, former Iowa Democratic Party chair Sue Dvorsky, and twenty current or former state lawmakers.

Hart was already the clear favorite to win the nomination. She appears increasingly unlikely to face serious competition from the left in the Democratic primary. Iowa City business owner Veronica Tessler ruled out the race earlier this month. Former Bernie Sanders national delegate Daniel Clark, who ran in IA-02 as an independent last year, is now backing Hart. Johnson County progressives on the new list of Hart endorsers include State Senators Joe Bolkcom and Zach Wahls and State Representatives Mary Mascher and Amy Nielsen.

Scott County Supervisor Ken Croken is still considering a Congressional bid, he told Bleeding Heartland in a May 23 telephone interview. Croken said he and his team are collecting information about potential Republican candidates with a view to deciding who would be the best person to keep IA-02 in Democratic hands. He said the long list of Hart endorsers won’t affect his decision, which he will announce sometime after Memorial Day.

Hart’s news release mentioned eleven high-profile Scott County Democrats, including State Representatives Monica Kurth and Phyllis Thede, State Senator Jim Lykam, former Davenport Mayors Bill Gluba and Thom Hart, and former state lawmaker Frank Wood. Croken’s past contributions to some local Republican candidates would also be a problem in a primary race.

Speaking of Democrats in the Quad Cities area, Davenport attorney Ian Russell has ruled out running for Congress next year, he told Bleeding Heartland by phone on May 22. Russell said he talked to Hart about a week ago and “told her she’s going to be a very good candidate for the second district and that I’d support her.”

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Iowa Senate district 41: Fairfield Mayor Ed Malloy considering it

A competitive Democratic primary may be coming in Iowa Senate district 41, one of the Democrats’ best pickup opportunities in next year’s state legislative elections. The district contains the population centers of Wapello and Jefferson counties, plus all of Davis and Van Buren counties. I’ve posted a map after the jump. The latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office indicate that the district contains 15,169 registered Democrats, 11,558 Republicans, and 13,698 no-party voters.

Last month Wapello County Supervisor Steve Siegel announced plans to run against first-term Republican Mark Chelgren, a surprise winner in the 2010 wave. Given the tilt of this Senate district, I’ve been wondering whether a Jefferson County-based Democrat might take a shot at this race too.

Former State Senator Becky Schmitz, now a Jefferson County supervisor, told me yesterday that she has ruled out running in Senate district 41 next year. She made that choice when she decided to run for supervisor last year.

Another name that has come up in conversations with Jefferson County Democrats is Ed Malloy. He served two terms on the Fairfield City Council before being elected mayor in 2001. He has since been re-elected twice and is seeking a fourth term this year. Msn.com named him one of the 15 greenest mayors in the country in 2009. Malloy also serves on the Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and has been a trustee of the Maharishi University of Management.

Speaking to me by telephone yesterday, Malloy said he is interested in serving in the Iowa Senate and is considering becoming a candidate in Senate district 41. He is now focused on his re-election campaign for mayor but will give the Senate race serious thought after the local elections on November 5.

Share any relevant comments in this thread.

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First take on the Iowa House and Senate results (updated)

Democrats suffered big losses in the Iowa House and Senate last night. Assuming no results change through recounts, the House is likely to switch from 56 Democrats and 44 Republicans to 59 Republicans and 41 Democrats. I’ve seen some online references to a 58-42 split, but that’s not how the count looks based on unofficial results posted on the Secretary of State’s website.

Democrats maintain control of the Iowa Senate, but their majority shrank from 32-18 to 27-23. Governor-elect Terry Branstad should easily be able to get his agenda through the Iowa House, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal may have trouble keeping his caucus united.

UPDATE: Late returns could change the outcome in two Senate seats; it’s possible the chamber could have a 25-25 split, or a 26-24 Democratic majority.

SECOND UPDATE: A few more races could switch as more absentee ballots come in. As of Wednesday evening, Democrat Tom Schueller is now trailing in House district 25 by about 150 votes.

Here’s my take on the seats that changed hands and the near-misses.

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The case of the missing Republican fundraising

Last week Democratic and Republican candidates for the Iowa legislature filed disclosure reports on their campaign contributions and expenditures. For most candidates, those reports covered the period from June 2 through July 14. For the few candidates who didn’t file reports on the Friday preceding the June primary, the July 19 reports covered campaign fundraising and expenses between May 15 and July 14.

John Deeth posted cash-on-hand totals for candidates in most of the Iowa House and Senate battleground districts. The numbers are encouraging for Democrats, because our candidates lead their opponents in cash on hand in most of the targeted districts.

As I read through the July 19 contribution reports, I noticed something strange. Republican candidates in various targeted Iowa House and Senate districts reported improbably low fundraising numbers. As a general rule, candidates strive for impressive fundraising to demonstrate their viability, and cash on hand in July indicates which candidate will have more resources during crunch time. However, I got the impression that several of the Republican Iowa House and Senate candidates made little effort to obtain campaign contributions during the latest reporting period. Follow me after the jump for some examples and possible explanations.  

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Events coming up this week, with a few job openings

I haven’t posted any job listings here in a while, but I recently learned of a few opportunities in the environmental area. Those are posted below. If you know of political or progressive advocacy jobs available, feel free to send details to me (desmoinesdem AT yahoo.com), and I will try to spread the word.

The big political event this week is the March 19 deadline for Iowa candidates to file nominating papers for statewide and federal offices. John Deeth has been covering the filings so far at his blog. Follow me after the jump for details on other things going on around the state, and post a comment or send me an e-mail if you know of something I’ve left out.

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Dream recruit may spark Republican infighting in Senate district 45

Iowa Republicans have landed Sandy Greiner, their dream candidate against first-term Democratic State Senator Becky Schmitz in Senate district 45. The southeast Iowa district includes all of Washington, Jefferson, and Van Buren counties, plus part of Wapello and Johnson counties (map here). Schmitz defeated Republican incumbent David Miller by 184 votes in 2006, but the area leans slightly Republican in terms of voter registration.

Greiner represented Iowa House district 89, which makes up half of Senate district 45, for four terms (1993 to 2001). She then served for two years in the Iowa Senate before redistricting prompted her to return to House district 89 for another three terms (2003-2009). Consequently, she starts the race with high name recognition in the area and will be able to campaign almost as an incumbent. Republican blogger Craig Robinson sounds ready to declare this seat won for the GOP.

Greiner will be a stronger opponent for Schmitz than the three Republicans who had previously declared for the seat (Richard Marlar, Randy Besick and Dan Cesar). However, I would not assume that local Republicans will be united behind her this fall. Greiner is linked to business elites who have battled with activists on the religious right for control over the direction of the Iowa GOP.

Join me after the jump for more background on Greiner and why I suspect some social conservatives will fight her candidacy.

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