Special election coming in Iowa Senate district 1

UPDATE: Governor Kim Reynolds set the special election for Tuesday, December 14. Original post follows.

Republican State Senator Zach Whiting has resigned from the Iowa Senate to take a job in Texas, nwestiowa.com reported on October 29. In a statement, Whiting said he was proud of his service in the legislature and grateful to constituents, but could not pass up the opportunity to work for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative advocacy group.

Whiting was a staffer for U.S. Representative Steve King before winning a three-way GOP primary and the 2018 general election in Iowa Senate district 1. The previous incumbent, David Johnson, did not seek re-election that year. He had left the Republican Party to become an independent in the summer of 2016, in protest of the GOP nominating Donald Trump for president.

Governor Kim Reynolds will soon schedule a special election in November or December to fill the remainder of Whiting’s term, which runs through 2022. Senate district 1 includes all of Lyon, Osceola, Dickinson, Clay, and Palo Alto counties. Whoever wins the GOP nominating convention will almost certainly become the next senator. The district is among the reddest in Iowa, with nearly three times as many registered Republicans as Democrats.

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Iowa Senate district 49 preview: Patti Robinson vs. Chris Cournoyer

When Fred Hubbell selected State Senator Rita Hart as his running mate, Democrats had to scramble to find a new candidate in Iowa Senate district 49. Patti Robinson announced her candidacy on July 3. She will face Republican Chris Cournoyer, who has been campaigning here since last November.

Hart was favored for re-election, having won by nearly 900 votes in 2014 despite the statewide GOP landslide. However, an open seat should be highly competitive. Both parties may devote hundreds of thousands of dollars to this race, based on spending totals from the battleground Iowa Senate districts during the 2016 cycle.

Democrats are looking at a difficult state Senate map this year and can’t afford to lose any ground to maintain a realistic chance of regaining the majority in 2020. Republicans currently hold 29 of the 50 Senate seats and will pick up Senate district 1, where Iowa’s only independent lawmaker David Johnson is retiring.

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Republicans virtually guaranteed to pick up Iowa Senate district 1

State Senator David Johnson, the only independent to serve in the Iowa legislature in recent decades, announced today he will not seek re-election in November. He had won four previous state Senate races as a Republican and indicated last year that he planned to run for another term. However, Johnson had neither raised nor spent any money from his campaign account since January 1.

The retirement gives the GOP, which already holds 29 of the 50 seats in the upper chamber, a clear shot at picking up Senate district 1 in the state’s northwest corner. According to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office, this district contains 7,304 active registered Democrats, 20,589 Republicans, and 13,333 no-party voters. Only one seat (nearby Senate district 2) is more heavily skewed toward the GOP. Brad Price, Zach Whiting, and Jesse Wolfe are competing for the GOP nomination in Johnson’s district. Democrats did not field a candidate here.

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Iowa legislative recap: Senate confirmations

Continuing a series on news from the Iowa legislature’s 2018 session that attracted little attention before lawmakers adjourned for the year.

The Iowa Senate confirmed almost everyone Governor Kim Reynolds nominated for a state board or commission this year with unanimous or near-unanimous support. However, opposition from Democratic senators blocked three of the governor’s more than 200 appointees (full list here).

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Iowa legislative recap: Constitutional amendments

Iowa lawmakers went home for the year on May 5. In the coming weeks, Bleeding Heartland will catch up on some of the legislature’s significant work that attracted relatively little attention.

Two proposed state constitutional amendments passed both chambers and could appear on the 2020 general election ballot, if the House and Senate approve them in the same form during either 2019 or 2020.

Three other constitutional amendments cleared one chamber in 2017–in one case unanimously–then stalled in the other chamber as lawmakers completed this two-year session. Those ideas may resurface next year. But since changes to the state constitution must be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures before landing on the general election ballot (the last step in the process), Iowa voters would not be able to ratify those proposals until November 2022 at the earliest.

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